In a strongly worded warning, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has threatened Punjab that it will cut off funding of nearly ₹676.11 crore for augmenting health infrastructure if the State continued to rebrand centrally funded Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) as ‘Aam Aadmi Clinics’.
The Aam Aadmi Party is at the helm in the State.
Official sources in MoHFW said that they conducted regular surveillance by checking geo-tagged pictures of AB-HWCs to make sure that the facades of the buildings, for which the central government provides 60% funding, are more or less standardised across States.
“It was observed that the facades of AB-HWCs had been turned on their head, and were rebranded as Aam Aadmi Clinics with prominent pictures of Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann plastered all over the clinics,” a senior official from MoHFW said.
The Ministry has observed that Punjab deviating from the standard design of AB-HWCs was in violation of the National Health Mission’s Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Centre and States from April 2021 to March 2026. An AB-HWCs building has to be painted yellow and brown with a red NHM logo in front, officials said.
The MoHFW in its reference manual for designing AB-HWCs states that the State can have pictures, painted following the local art forms, on the facade of the building. “None of that has been done in Punjab’s case. While Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala are also not compliant with facade designs, they have not politicised the design,” the official added.
In FY 2022-23, Punjab had been given an approval of ₹1,114.57 crore under the National Health Mission in the ratio of 60:40, 60% being the Centre’s share and 40% being the share of the State. An amount of ₹438.46 crore had already been released so far as the Centre’s share, said Roli Singh, Additional Secretary (NHM), MoHFW, in the letter to the Punjab government. Up to ₹676.11 crore has not been released yet.
“Further, the State has been provided with an approval of ₹401.12 crore under 15th Finance Commission and ₹145.62 crore under PM-ABHIM [PM-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission] for FY2022-23. By not adhering to the provisions of the MoU and not following the guidelines issued for AB-HWCs and developing the branding of these facilities as Aam Aadmi Clinics, the State has vitiated the spirit of the scheme and defaulted on its commitment,” the letter stated.
The MoHFW has asked the Punjab government to restore the facade branding of all AB-HWCs in rural and urban areas, where healthcare services are being provided with the support of the NHM by February 28. It said it would stop health funding under NHM if the agreement was not adhered to. “It seems the State has violated the provisions of clause 10.3 and 10.10 of the MoU and have stopped implementing the AB-HWC component of the NHM; therefore releases to the State under NHM do not appear feasible as per provisions of clause 13 of the MOU,” Ms. Singh said.
The MoHFW allocates an annual fund of ₹5.6 lakh for infrastructural upkeep of one PHC-HWC and an additional ₹4 lakh towards staff salaries. Similarly, it allocates ₹9.75 lakhs towards upgradation and upkeep of each SHC-HWC and additional ₹7.3 lakh towards staff salaries.
There are 2,488 sub health centres (SHC) and 379 primary health centres in Punjab. In addition there are 162 urban primary health centres (PHC) in the State that are eligible for upgradation and regular funding under the NHM’s AB-HWC programme, MoHFW officials said.