Dear FM, You disappoint healthcare again

A DOTS centre in bihar, India

Continuing the decadal trend where public health suffers apathy on part of government both in terms of funding and focus, Healthcare which needed a big bang announcement owing to a very meagre improvement in our indicators, it again bears the brunt of favoring electoral politics upon developmental.Public funding of health sector remains at 1.2 percent of GDP, with Central government spending constituting a third of overall government funds.

Union Budget 2017-18 has relied again on National Health Mission stepping up allocation from Rs. 39,888 crores (revised estimate during 2016-17) to Rs. 48,880 crores, with a nominal rise of 23%.FM Arun Jaitley talks of an ambitious action plan to eliminate Kala-Azar and Filariasis by 2017, Leprosy by 2018, Measles by 2020 and even more ambitious target to eliminate Tuberculosis by 2025. They seem promising but let’s talk from the field. Are they even possible? With country fighting against Multi drug Resistant TB, Poor health infrastructure, Underfunding, bad implementation of Non communicable disease mission and diversion of funds, this plan seems nowhere in sight.

Let’s talk about Universal Health Coverage ,the minimum required resources for this socially relevant scheme should be 1.5-2% of GDP. There we are, already underfunded.With Demonetisation projected as a game changer to plug loopholes, increase fiscal accountability and strengthen the public finance, why does the health sector still has to face under-allocation.

The structural reform in Medical education is a welcome step but it should be associated with a strict monitoring and regulation over MCI witnessing the huge corruption MCI and DCI is involved in.The renaming of Health SubCentres into Wellness Centres continues the present government’s efforts to sell old wine in new bottle.From leakages to a collapsing health infrastructure, from skilled professionals to consumables availability, HSCs do not need a new name, they need a new approach.

Dear Finance Minister, from a person working and observing Public Health from close quarters, this budget is disappointing.We were hopeful that healthcare would be accorded a national priority sector status but it still looks a far fetched dream.

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