Acknowledging the nation’s need to ramp up the spend on the healthcare sector, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has allotted a health budget of Rs. 47,352.51 Cr. Previously, in his letters to the finance ministry, Union Health Minister Nadda wrote that he needed a larger allocation of funds to meet the public health objectives which provide basic services to the people. The allocation of the 2017-18 union budget is higher by 27% than the previous year’s budget of Rs. 37,061 Cr and 5% higher than MoHFW’s expectation. “The enhanced allocation to the health sector will strengthen activities of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare towards providing universal healthcare”, tweeted Nadda after the budget.
On health, FM Jaitley said that poverty is usually associated with poor health as it is the poor who suffer the maximum from various chronic diseases. Government has therefore prepared an action plan to eliminate diseases like Kala Azar and Filariases by 2017, Leprosy by 2018, Measles by 2020 and Tuberculosis by 2025. As parts of efforts to bring down the maternal mortality rate, PM Modi had recently announced a scheme to provide a financial aid of Rs. 6000 pregnant women in their bank accounts. Building on this scheme, the union budget aims to reduce IMR from 39 in 2014 to 28 in 2019 and MMR from 167 in 2011-2013 to 100 by 2018-2020. These goals will be supported by the idea to transform 1.5 lac Health Sub-Centres into Health Wellness Centres.
As per the reports by World Health Organisation, India currently has 7 doctors for every 10,000 people. To address this gap, “the government needs to ensure adequate availability of specialist doctors to strengthen the secondary and tertiary levels of healthcare” as per FM Jaitley. To facilitate this the ministry has decided to allocate additional 5000 Post-Graduate seats per annum. Additionally, steps will be taken to roll-out DNB courses in big district hospitals, strengthen PG training in selected ESI and Municipal corporation hospital. The Government will also encourage reputed private hospitals to start the DNM courses. State governments are likely to play an important role in taking this initiative forward.
Approaching the subject of the recent updates in the regulatory frameworks, Jaitley confirmed that the Government is committed to take necessary steps for structural transformation of the regulatory framework of medical education and practice in India. The biggest news in his speech, however, remains the announcement of setting up two new All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the states of Jharkhand and Gujarat.
The health budget will highly benefit the poor people who rely on India’s public health programmes for their basic health requirements such as vaccines, disease prevention and free drugs. The Government proposes to amend the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules to ensure the availability of drugs at reasonable prices to ensure the use of generic medicines. Finally, new rules regarding medical devises will be formulated. Jaitley positively adds that these rules will be “internationally harmonised” in order to attract foreign investments in the healthcare sector. This will reduce the costs of such devices.
Balancing the spend, the finance ministry has split the allocation across various programmes. Over all, the Health Budget 2017-18 seems like a progressive step towards advancing the healthcare domain in India. Do you think it is a robust budget? Share your views.