Karnataka Budget | No vision of preparedness for future pandemics

Although expectations were high on health allocation this year, especially after the State’s experience in battling the pandemic, the Budget for 2021–22 has been disappointing, both in terms of allocation and planning for future pandemics.

Although Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa admitted in his Budget speech on Monday that the panic created by COVID-19 could not be forgotten and that the State was preparing to deal with a second wave, the overall allocation for the health sector has remained the same as last year’s — at 4% (₹11,908 crore) of the total Budget.

Also, while several initiatives, including setting up of ICUs in district and taluk hospitals and strengthening of tele-ICUs apart from upgrading of primary health centres, have been announced, there is nothing specific on strengthening the health surveillance system for monitoring emergence of new pathogens.

Sudarshan Ballal, chairman of Manipal Hospitals and member of the State’s COVID-19 expert committee said there was a need for continuous upgrading of oxygen beds, ICU beds, isolation beds, and testing facilities. “Budgetary allocation for this will be needed to fight any future pandemics,” he said.

Terming it as a “reasonable” Budget considering the State of the economy after devastation by COVID-19, Dr. Ballal said, “Facilities to segregate infectious patients from those with non-infectious and non-communicable diseases need to be planned in our future healthcare systems.”

While welcoming the Budget proposals in the health sector, V. Ravi, the former senior professor and head of neurovirology at NIMHANS and member of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee, said the Budget should have had a long-term vision and planning for future preparedness. This vision should involve setting up good surveillance, which includes establishing a state-of-the-art virology centre in Karnataka, said Dr. Ravi, who is also the nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in the State.

Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor and activist, said the pandemic is a good time for the government to look at gaps in the public health system and invest in addressing them.

“The obvious lesson is that the urban-centric, corporatised, and fragmented healthcare does not meet the needs of a majority in the State. Gaps in disaster preparedness, data mapping, lab testing, transport facilities, etc. have been laid bare. The government should have invested in preparing and anticipating for future pandemics,” she added.

However, Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said the Chief Minister had done a balancing act. “I am confident that the Chief Minister will allocate more funds in the coming days as the State’s revenue returns to normalcy,” he said.

The Budget, among other things, proposes to set up satellite centres of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at K.C. General Hospital and Davangere District Hospital on a equip, operate and manage model, apart from additional cancer and trauma centres, and two labs to detect hereditary metabolic disorders among neonates.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 6:38:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-budget-no-vision-of-preparedness-for-future-pandemics/article34023798.ece

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