Indian Railways may soon unveil primary healthcare centres along with Jan Aushadhi stores and sanitary pad vending machines at around 7,000 stations across the country as part of efforts to boost the national healthcare plan proposed in Budget 2018-19.
The railways ministry has proposed that its infrastructure be used for providing primary healthcare services at affordable prices.
“We have got a robust network across the country including in villages that can be used by the Centre to take the preventive and primary healthcare to the last mile,” said a senior railways ministry official, who did not wish to be identified.
The railways ministry is working with the health and family welfare ministry to chalk out details of the plan, which could entail inviting private sector participation for setting up basic diagnostic centres.
“There’s a proposal to use retired doctors and ex-army hospital staff for the purpose,” the official said.
To begin with, the railways plans to immediately set up sanitary pad vending machines at stations across the country.
“The government wants to provide sanitary pads at affordable prices. The dispensing machines would be installed in ladies toilets,” the official said.
The subject had come up for discussion during a recent meeting between railways minister Piyush Goyal and women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi.
To set up Jan Aushadhi stores, the railways ministry has offered space at stations to the Department of Pharmaceuticals in the chemicals and fertilizers ministry.
Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana, a campaign launched by the chemicals and fertilizers ministry, aims at providing quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special stores named Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendras.
The railways ministry is also working on a plan to provide subsidised healthcare facilities to coolies (porters) and their families. There are around 20,000 coolies working at railway stations.
In the budget for 2018-19, the government announced the National Health Protection Scheme, the biggest such global plan to provide quality health cover to 500 million people from financially vulnerable households.
People falling under the scheme would have access to modern medicine, critical care and quality tertiary care through private and state facilities to be financed through a Rs 5 lakh per family insurance cap.