In a boost to geriatric care across the country, the national programme for the healthcare of the elderly has been allotted Rs. 150 crore under the Union Budget 2013-14. This fund is to be split among 21 states for 100 selected centres to improve facilities in hospitals/clinics for treatment and care of senior citizens. It is aimed at meeting the needs of the 13.2 crore senior citizens in the country.
Tamil Nadu will especially benefit, as it has one of the eight regional centres for geriatric care in the country. The Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, attached to the Madras Medical College, pioneered the concept of geriatric care in 1978 by launching an outpatient clinic. The hospital received Rs. 5 crore in 2012 to construct a separate building and equip it with facilities such as physiotherapy care and a separate ward.
Last year, six districts in the State were identified for furthering the elder care project, said B. Krishnaswamy, head of the hospital’s geriatrics department. Apart from serving as a nodal centre for the State, the regional centre also covers some districts in Karnataka and Kerala. “The elder care project was launched in the 11th Five Year Plan and we were allocated Rs. 20 crore last year. This budget allocation means that the funds will be extended for the next year too,” he said.
S.M. Chellaswamy, secretary general of the National Alliance of Senior Citizens Association of India (NASCOI), says that each of the 100 centres will only receive Rs. 1.5 crore and that this was too little.
“The State set an example for the country. We now have a geriatric ICU at the GH. Each regional centre should be allotted at least Rs. 2 crore to develop it well as senior citizens form 13 per cent of the total population,” he said.
As a retiree, Mr. Chellaswamy is now eligible for Rs. 1 lakh under the State government’s health benefit scheme for its retired employees but this is hardly enough if he has to seek treatment in a private hospital.