Cut in NHM funds to hit primary healthcare services in Rajasthan

Ashok Gehlot.  

The ambitious goal of “Nirogi Rajasthan” set by the Congress government is unlikely to be met this year with the State budget for 2020-21, presented last week, making a negligible increase of 6.8% in the allocation for medical, health and family welfare. The massive cut of ₹502.42 crore in the funds for the National Health Mission is also likely to hit primary healthcare services.

Health activists attached to the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, which functions as the State chapter of the People’s Health Movement, here on Tuesday expressed concern over budgetary treatment of the health sector. The activists described the allocation of ₹14,533.37 crore to the health sector as inadequate and wondered why the Right to Health Act had found no mention in the budget speech.

Poll promise

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who also holds the Finance portfolio, had earlier announced that the Right to Health Bill would be shortly introduced in the Assembly to guarantee common people’s access to high-quality healthcare services. This was also one of the significant promises made in the election manifesto of the Congress.

Chhaya Pachauli, director of voluntary group Prayas, said the reduction in NHM budget from ₹2,002.85 crore last year to ₹1,500.43 crore, as well as in the National Rural and Urban Health Missions’ funds, would impact a wide range of healthcare services. Some of the crucial health programmes, such as immunisation, adolescent health, community-based interventions and allocation of human resource for healthcare, were linked with these missions.

Moreover, the budget for sub-health centres has been reduced from ₹133.95 crore last year to ₹105.90 crore and that for the primary health centres from ₹335.98 crore last year to ₹309.84 crore.

Intervention needed

“This slash signifies a clear undermining of primary healthcare services which are already in dire shape and are in need of urgent interventions for a thorough revamping,” Ms. Pachauli said.

Though Mr. Gehlot laid a lot of emphasis on the “Nirogi Rajasthan” campaign in his budget speech, it would fail to yield any productive results in the absence of an effective primary healthcare system, Ms. Pachauli said. On the other hand, the State health insurance scheme under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana has got a substantial increase in allocation from ₹631 crore last year to ₹1,241.51 crore.

The flagship free medicine and free diagnostic tests schemes, initiated by Mr. Gehlot during his previous tenure, have witnessed a negligible increase this year.

According to the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, this indicates a “fast-growing inclination” of the State towards implementation of health insurance scheme rather than promoting universally accessible free healthcare programmes.

‘Lessons not learnt’

Ms. Pachauli said the State government had not learnt any lessons from the recent incident of children’s deaths in Kota and was not serious about improving the public healthcare system, which was low on service delivery, poor on quality standards and far from the reach of those who most needed it.

“This would mean that little change is expected in the year to come and a large number of people will still have to depend on private sector and unqualified practitioners,” she added.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:16:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/cut-in-nhm-funds-to-hit-primary-healthcare-services-in-rajasthan/article30917660.ece

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