Government increases healthcare budget by 10% — but that may not be sufficient
- Finance Minister
Nirmala Sitharamanallocated ₹69,000 crore to the healthcare sector , an increase of 10% from the current financial year.
- Last year, the government allocated a record ₹62,659 crore for the sector.
- According to experts, India may not be able to revive its healthcare sector even with an increase by 25%.
However, according to experts, India may not be able to revive its healthcare sector even with an increase of 25%. Over the years, the government’s spending on healthcare has increased. However, It wasn’t even 1% of national income until 2019.
In 2019, the National Health Protection Scheme (Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) completed a year and was able to cover over 6.9 million hospital treatments, according to its website. However, the scheme is based on an old database, which makes it difficult to identify the beneficiaries. Moreover, the scheme — with ₹6,400 crore budget — struggled to provide disbursements on time.
The slow pace increase in the healthcare budget might make it difficult for India to achieve sustainable goal targets like reducing infant mortality. According to UNICEF, India ranks 12 out of the 52 low-middle income countries with the highest infant mortality rates.
In 2019, as many as 963 infants admitted at Kota’s crumbling JK Lon hospital lost their lives to poor facilities and bad hygiene. The hospital records deaths in at least 3-4 deaths daily primarily because of poor infrastructure, unhygienic conditions and lack of proper facilities.
The series of deaths shook up the entire nation and the memory will be fresh in the minds of people as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stands up in the Parliament to deliver her budget speech.
The blame for the horrid tragedy at the Kota hospital fell on the state government in Rajasthan but the fact is that the condition is similar across several government hospitals in India. A government hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh also made national headlines when it registered 61 infant deaths in 72 hours.
The pressure will be on the government to step up spending to upgrade public hospitals, which is the only option for millions of the country’s poor. According to the National Statistical Office, the average medical expense at a government hospital is ₹4,452 in comparison to ₹31,845 at a private hospital.
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