Integrated public health wing is the major highlight

The public health sector has got a good turn in the State Budget with Finance Minister K.M. Mani allocating Rs. 10 crore for setting up a public health wing to promote equitable and accessible healthcare for all, apart from allocations for improving infrastructure in government hospitals.

The allocation for the health sector went up by 11.5 per cent to Rs. 541 crore from Rs. 470 crore last year.

The major highlight for the health sector is the announcement of the formation of the integrated public health wing, with assistance from the Union Health Ministry, which will focus on promoting quality and affordable healthcare, reducing out-of-pocket expenditure on health, while paying attention to disease prevention and control activities. The Finance Minister said such a wing could be the first in the country.

Drug distribution

The distribution of free generic drugs to patients coming to government hospitals, currently on in five medical college hospitals and the general hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Kozhikode, will be extended up to the taluk hospitals across the State this year, Mr. Mani said. Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd. is being allocated Rs. 220 crore for the purpose.

To improve infrastructure in hospitals, the Minister has allocated Rs. 5 crore for setting up emergency units in 31 taluk headquarters hospitals. At present, only 35 taluk hospitals have casualty wings. He set aside Rs. 25 crore for construction activities in hospitals.

The Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, will get assistance for setting up a liver transplantation unit and a cadaver organ transplantation unit. A total of Rs. 25 crore has been set apart in the Budget for these projects and for opening a cardiology block at the Government Medical College, Thrissur, and a trauma-care unit at the Government Medical College, Alappuzha.

With alcohol and drug addiction emerging as a major health and social issue in the State, the decision of the Finance Minister to allocate Rs. 6.3 crore for opening de-addiction centres in all major government hospitals could not be more welcome. These apart, de-addiction centres will be set up under non-governmental organisations in 63 taluks.

Burns units will be started in all five medical college hospitals, for which Rs. 5 crore has been allocated.

Medical cities will be set up in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode by setting up a network of modern hospitals. A Centrally assisted project to start drugs quality control and testing programme will be started in the pharmaceutical colleges in the medical colleges in Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Kozhikode and Kottayam, for which a budgetary allocation of Rs. 4 crore has been made.

Thiruvananthapuram could be getting a new medical college with the upgrade of the General Hospital, which will be integrated with the Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud. This is a project being taken up under a new Central scheme, for which the Finance Minister has set aside Rs. 6 crore.

A new cancer-care hospital will come up in central Kerala. The Centre has already approved the State’s proposal to elevate the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, as a national cancer institute.