Amid the biggest health crisis the nation has witnessed ever, India’s Budget for health and wellness has arrived as a welcome change pegging at 1.9 percent of the country’s GDP. The Centre has provided a much-needed boost to the healthcare sector with a 127 percent hike in the budgetary allocation to the sector in the fiscal year 2021-22. Rs 2,23,846 crore has been outlaid for the fiscal year with multiple promises to ramp up medical facilities in the coming five years.
Funds are also allocated separately for Covid-19 vaccination, as well as allocations for urban sanitation, liquid waste management, water supply, mitigation of air pollution, and nutrition. The hike provided to the ovrerall healthcare is Rs 1,29,394 crore, more than the last Budget. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Budget outlay for health and well-being is Rs 2,23,846 crore in 2021-22, as against only Rs 94,452 crore (in 2020-21) and it marks an increase of 137 percent.
While the investment in health infrastructure has increased substantially, the government will commit more in the offing, the finance minister added. While presenting the Budget, Sitharaman asserted that health and wellness is one of the six pillars of a self-reliant India.
The highlight of the latest Budget is a new scheme that the government proposed to launch with a vision for a robust healthcare system that is currently battling the Covid-19 pandemic. Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PMASBY) will be launched with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years. This scheme is in addition to the already existing National Health Mission (NHM).
The focus kept here is at a three-pronged, holistic approach to preventive, curative care & tertiary care, health research, and well-being. The latest scheme would provide support to over 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centers. Integrated public health laboratories would be established in all 739 districts. Additionally, the labs would be extended to 3,382 block public health units in eleven states.
The critical care facilities will be set-up in blocks at 602 districts and 12 central institutions. Fifteen health emergency operation centers and two mobile hospitals will also be set up. Meanwhile, given the outbreak of Covid-19, the government has planned to strengthen its apex centers which work to monitor and control communicable diseases. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), its five regional branches, and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units will be given further support.
A national institution for “One Health” — a regional research platform for the World Health Organization’s south-east Asia region office will also be set-up, in addition to nine bio-safety ‘level 3’ labs and four regional National Institutes of Virology (NIV)s, under the PMASBY. The new health scheme is welcomed by the health industry leaders who called it a long-pending intervention.
“We (health industry) have repeatedly advised measures for robust investment in healthcare and I’m happy to see that a few of them have been implemented. Spending is critical for economic viability and this Budget has done a good balance in that. It is a significant initiative that we must proactively recommend and welcome,” said Sangeeta Reddy, Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Group and Past President, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).
Prathap C. Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospital Groups, said that the government now must look at the next crisis of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD)s. “They are projected to be responsible for 80 percent of deaths and cause a $3.8 trillion burden to the country by 2030. While it is important to focus on prevention, early detection, and possible cure to protect Indian families from grief, financial burden, and to help the GDP grow, India having proven its clinical excellence, should now focus on clinical trials, research, innovation, and technology to devise counters to NCDs crisis,” he added. (IANS)