India Places State-Run Hospitals Under Review to Probe Graft

India has placed all central government-run hospitals under “critical review” to identify and end corrupt medical practices in the country.

The hospitals under scrutiny will include the New Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences as the government aims to “end systematic and symptomatic corruption,” according to a statement by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.

The probe intends to help make health-care services more accessible and safe in Asia’s third-largest economy, where 825 million people live on less than $2 per day and 86 percent of health care is paid out of pocket by individuals. A study by the Public Health Foundation of India and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that non-communicable ailments such as heart disease are now more common among the poor than the rich in India.

“Very soon the results are going to be in the public domain,” Harsh Vardhan said in the statement. “In my first 90 days in office hardly a day has passed without inquiring into the transparency of the ministry and its outposts.”

In May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had led his Bhartiya Janta Party to the biggest electoral win in three decades, trouncing the incumbent Congress Party. On the campaign trail, he called for economic development and the eradication of government corruption.

“I will impose 500 percent transparency and adopt a zero tolerance for corruption,” said Harsh Vardhan. His ministry will rectify practices such as bribery or favoritism in the allocation of hospital beds and kickbacks from suppliers of medical goods, if these are discovered in the probe.

The drive to ensure transparency and efficiency may also help boost the Indian medical tourism industry, which will double in value to $6 billion by 2018 with 400,000 arrivals, up from about 230,000 currently, according to estimates by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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