A Parliamentary committee has suggested that the Health Ministry tweaks existing norms of the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) so as to allow opening of new wellness centres, especially in “hilly and difficult States” that include Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, UT of Ladakh and in the north-eastern States.

As per existing norms, there has to be at least 6,000 Central government employees for opening of CGHS wellness centre in a new city and at least 2,000-odd primary card holders for opening these wellness centre in an existing city that is covered by the scheme.

“The committee, however, are aware that there still are many cities and towns where there is a sizeable number of Central government employees and beneficiaries, but no CGHS wellness centres are functioning in such cities due to the existing norms,” the Committee of Estimates said in its report tabled in Parliament today.

Pointing out to instances of “remote towns/cities” mostly in the north east and other hilly states that have a large number of Central government employees, the committee said many such employees there were unable to avail benefits.

Medical needs

“Such beneficiaries have to travel long distances to reach the nearest CGHS centres to address their medical needs. This scenario, apart from being financially draining on the beneficiaries, also affects productivity. Therefore, the committee would like the Ministry to revise norms/guidelines.” it said in the report.

The committee suggested that the Ministry should explore the possibility of on-boarding retired doctors of the State governments “on contract basis”, in such cities/towns in the initial phase till the process of recruitment of doctors is completed for posting in such locations.

“The review (tweaks) must be undertaken inter-alia also with the objective of exploring possibilities of establishing centres in towns and cities, where it does not meet the existing norms,” it said adding that tweaks be made in such a way to include Central government employees, pensioners and their dependent family members.

Health Ministry Response

In their reply, the Ministry has stated that the “existing manpower is fully committed”. And creation of new posts have to be sanctioned by Department of Expenditure of the Union Finance Ministry.

A considered view on opening new wellness centres shall be taken “in accordance with the observations of the committee”.