Kerala

Nothing new for Health in Budget

The State Budget 2021-22 presented by Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac on Friday has nothing new for the Health sector and even the vague promises are likely to remain just that as nothing has been said about the financial allocation required for the same.

Free COVID-19 vaccination for all, an announcement earlier made by the Chief Minister, has been reiterated by Dr. Isaac and is the biggest promise offered from the side of public health in this Budget.

4,000 new posts

Dr. Isaac also makes a mention of new 4,000 posts to be created in the Health Department in 2021-22 for running all 221 Family Health Centres and for fully utilising the new facilities created in hospitals using KIIFB funds.

However, he says later in the Budget that the new medical colleges at Konni, Idukki, Wayanad and Kasaragod will get priority when it comes to these additional posts. This means that a chunk of the new posts would essentially be for creating the minimum mandatory posts for getting these institutions up and running.

Dr. Isaac also focussed mostly on Kerala’s response to COVID-19 and how the health system had unrestricted access to financial resources during the pandemic, not just to offer free treatment to all COVID-19 patients but for COVID-related activities such as contract tracing and quarantining.

The total Budget allocation for the health sector is ₹2,341 crore, however, this is inclusive of the ₹811 crore the State expects as contribution from the National Health Mission.

As in the previous year’s Budget, Dr. Isaac announced that Karunya Benevolent Fund (KBF) will continue for those families who are not the beneficiaries of the Karunya Arogya Suraksha Padhati, the State’s financial protection scheme integrated with the Centre’s health insurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat.

While this might find popular favour, the fact remains that the government owes close to ₹200 crore to government hospitals as KBF arrears, while hundreds of new applications are already pending for want of funds. No special budgetary allocation has been made for KBF either.

Nursing colleges

Dr. Isaac said that the Kochi Cancer Centre will be completed by 2021-22. Nursing colleges will be started in Paripally and Manjeri medical colleges. Those who have completed nursing education can opt to do finishing courses, including courses on foreign language skills, for which collaboration of foreign hospitals would be sought.

E-health will be upgraded as an agency for availing of all IT-based services of the Health Department for which an amount of ₹25 crore has been earmarked.

Pay rise for ASHA workers

In what is seen as a purely populist measure, with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections, Dr. Isaac has increased the honorarium of Accredited Social Health Activists by ₹1000. ‘Karunya at Home’ will be implemented under the aegis of Kerala Medical Service Corporation Limited, under which elderly patients with chronic illnesses will be delivered their medicines at the door step, at an additional discount of 1%.

Geriatric clubs

The proposal in last year’s Budget, to start geriatric clubs in every ward, which could not materialise due to COVID-19, will be revived in 2021-22 when 5,000 geriatric clubs will be started, Dr. Isaac said. He added that local self government institutions should set apart at least ₹290 crore from their Plan funds for the elderly.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 11:58:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/nothing-new-for-health-in-budget/article33583581.ece

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