Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said there will be massive employment generation as an impact of measures undertaken by the government for self-reliance in the health sector.

Addressing a session on ‘India as a Health Hub’ organised by Swarajya Magazine in association with Vedanta Limited, Vardhan said the ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ package for the health sector, worth Rs 60,000 crore, will strengthen delivery of healthcare services across the full continuum of care.

“It will include setting up of national, regional, district and block level laboratories integrated into a network for surveillance functions backed by robust IT based reporting mechanisms leading to self-reliance for detection, prevention and containment of disease outbreak,” he said.

“I am happy to state that there will be massive employment generation as an impact of the measures that we have undertaken as part of the self-reliance in the health sector,” he said.

Vardhan said the package will also help build up a frontline health workforce to respond to any public health emergencies in the future.

“The development of critical care hospital blocks in more than 600 districts shall make such districts self-sufficient in providing comprehensive treatment for infectious diseases without disruption to other services,” he said.

Elaborating on how India can progress with self-reliance, the Union minister said, “India can progress only if each citizen progresses and for each citizen to progress we need to be self-reliant”.

“Self-reliant India does not mean boycotting foreign goods but believing in the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. It means ending India’s dependence on other countries and moving towards development and progress,” he said.

Speaking on the self-reliance initiatives taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, “India utilized the time during lockdown to upgrade the health infrastructure, build capacity of healthcare workers and ensure availability of requisite logistics in the country.

“We are today self-sufficient in the indigenous manufacturing of PPE kits, masks etc and also in a position to export the same.”

On leveraging technology in the fight against the pandemic, Vardhan said the Aarogya Setu application was developed for the purpose of helping in COVID management and the application has been downloaded by 168 million users.

“In order to aid the surveillance and containment activities, an IT tool called ITIHAS was also developed. ‘eSanjeevani’, a web-based comprehensive telemedicine solution is being utilized across India to extend the reach of specialized healthcare services to masses in both rural areas and isolated communities, he said.

The minister said the ‘e-ICUs’ also provided round the clock guidance in managing ICU patients in peripheral settings.

Noting the efforts undertaken to rapidly increase the infrastructure in the country during the pandemic, he said the total isolation beds increased to more than 1.5 million by the end of ‘Unlock 6’ as compared to 10,180 before the lockdown.

“Similarly, the number of ICU beds has increased to around 80,669 as compared to just 2,168 before lockdown,” he said

“We are launching programmes which are unprecedented in terms of their scale and reach also. These strife are ambitious and also evidence of our sincere commitment towards a healthy and more productive India,” he said.