16 March 2012
Increased public spending on health seems to be finally yielding results with accessible, affordable and equitable healthcare gradually becoming a reality for the country’s most backward and rural population.
According to the Economic Survey presented by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday, the combined revenue and capital expenditure on medical and public health, sanitation and family welfare increased from Rs 53,058 crore in 2006–07 to Rs 96,673 crore in 2010–11. However, the survey admits that the expenditure of the government on public health as a percentage of GDP is low.
India’s flagship National Rural Health Mission, launched in 2005, has started to make large strides by ramping up the human resource strength.
Despite many doctors refusing to practise in rural settings, the ministry of health added nearly 1.4 lakh health officials up to last September—11,712 doctors/specialists, 10,851 specialists practising Indian systems of medicine, 66,784 auxiliary nurse midwives, 32,860 staff nurses and 14,434 paramedics.
More than 8.55 lakh accredited social health activists (ASHAs) have been selected till date. As many as 8,330 primary health centres (PHCs) have started providing round–theclock medical service, while 442 districts have been equipped with mobile medical units.
There has also been a steady improvement in healthcare infrastructure. Till March 2010, 1.47 lakh sub–centres, 23,673 PHCs and 4,535 community health centres (CHCs) were functioning in the country. The major problems plaguing these centres is poor upkeep and maintenance and high absenteeism of manpower.
Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram, launched last June to provide free entitlements to pregnant women and sick newborns for cashless delivery, C–section, drugs and consumables and diagnostics, received a financial boost of Rs 1,437 crore during 2011–12. The programme has been rolled out in 264 high–focus districts across 21 states.
The ministry has also been pushing for integrating ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy (AYUSH) into the national healthcare delivery system. Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura are being assisted to set up 50–bed hospitals, and Sikkim and Assam for 10–bed AYUSH hospitals.
In order to develop and promote the Indian system of medicines in an organized and scientific manner, over Rs 900 crore was allocated in 2011–12.
The National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke was allocated Rs 125 crore in 2011–12, while another Rs 1,700 crore was earmarked for the National Aids Control Programme with the objective of halting and reversing the HIV epidemic in the country by integrating programmes for prevention, care, support and treatment.
Geriatric care has also received a major push with the introduction of the National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly under which 30–bed departments of geriatrics in eight identified regional medical institutions have been sanctioned.