The Union health ministry urged the states and Union territories on Thursday to expedite the operationalisation of 1.1 lakh Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs), equipped with tele-consultation services, by March 31.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a meeting through a video-conference with all the states and Union territories to review the operationalisation status of the AB-HWCs, the tele-consultation services and the physical and financial progress made under ECRP-II and PM-ABHIM, a statement issued by the ministry said.

Highlighting that the Centre is dedicated to expanding public healthcare delivery across the country, the states were informed about the implementation status of the AB-HWCs, their operationalisation as tele-consultation centres and the status of implementation of projects under the ECRP-II package through a detailed presentation.

Bhushan highlighted that for ensuring Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) under Ayushman Bharat, the sub-health centres (SHCs) and the primary health centres (PHCs) are being strengthened as health and wellness centres (HWCs).

"The states were advised to ensure operationalisation of the target of 1.10 lakh HWCs by March 31, 2022 through customised and focussed strategy. This in effect means that these HWCs must be fully functional and equipped to dispense free meds, provide free diagnostics and all prescribed health packages, including yoga and healthy living sessions," the statement said.

They were also advised to ensure that all the 1.1 lakh AB-HWCs are adequately equipped to function as effective and vibrant tele-consultation "spokes".

This would include ensured availability of internet connectivity, desktops or laptops and the required trained and skilled personnel, including CHOs. The states are also required to ensure that all the HWCs are mapped to a "hub", which could be a district hospital or a district medical college hospital.

For each such spoke, the states must ensure that a base minimum number of teleconsultation sessions are conducted, starting from Thursday, the statement said.

The HWCs are crucial in providing preventive, promotive, rehabilitative and curative care for an expanded range of services encompassing reproductive and child health services, communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, palliative care and elderly care, oral health, ENT care and basic emergency care.

Reiterating the advice to the states on expediting utilisation of funds released under ECRP-II for strengthening healthcare infrastructure across the country (since the funds will lapse on March 31), the states were again reminded to accelerate completion of projects under ECRP-II so that the subsequent instalment of funds can be released by the Union health ministry, the statement said.

They were also informed that the necessary exemption from the Election Commission (EC) has been taken and formally communicated to the poll-bound states for utilisation of funds.

Additionally, the states were also advised that they can utilise the savings under certain components of the ECRP-II package with the due approval of the state health societies for the permissible and admissible components, instead of again seeking the approval of the Union health ministry.

The states were requested to expedite the proposals and MoUs to be sent to the ministry under PM-ABHIM to enable it to release funds, the statement added.