Union Budget aims at complete privatisation of healthcare in the country, says ex. IMA President

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The finance minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman announced the much awaited Union Budget 2020 in the parliament today. This budget was a cause of anticipation among all the sectors in India, including the healthcare sector. 

The budget allocates INR 69,000 crore,10% more than the last year towards healthcare sector, but on the other hand it is only about 1% of the GDP, lagging much behind compared to the targeted 2.5%. Experts believe that even an increase of 25% from the previous Union Budget would not suffice to revive the condition of India's healthcare sector. The key takeaways were :-

  1. Rs. 69000 crore allocation for healthcare.
  2. Rs. 6400 crore for ambitious PMJAY , no increment as compared to last year.
  3. Rs. 35,600 crores allocated for nutrition related schemes.
  4. Strengthening the Tuberculosis elimination campaign. 
  5. Clubbing of District Hospitals with Private Medical colleges to provide MBBS courses in the country. 
  6. Provision of Bridge course for healthcare professionals in collaboration with Ministry of Skills. 
  7. National science scheme for gene mapping to be launched.

Referring to healthcare, Sitaraman said, "Viability gap funding window to be set up to cover hospitals, with priority given to aspirational districts that don't have hospitals empanelled under Ayushman Bharat. The government will open hospitals in tier II and tier III cities covered under aspirational districts scheme, which still do not have a Ayushman-empanelled hospital."

Medogle India talked to Dr. Santanu Sen,  ex. National President of Indian Medical Association  and a Rajya Sabha MP  from West Bengal , about his opinions on the allocations and attention given by the Union Budget 2020 to healthcare sector. Dr. Sen viewed the official announcement by Finance Minister of clubbing district hospitals with Private Medical colleges as a step towards complete privatisation of healthcare sectors and called this privatisation "the most unfortunate part for the people of this country". In his opinion, most of the policies and targets set out by this government are unrealistic and a product of faulty advisory.

Speaking about nursing care, paramedical staff and care givers, Finance Minister proposed a special bridge course to bring in equivalence in standards of care. The courses will be designed by Ministries of Health and Skill Development.

Talking about the bridge course, Dr. Santanu said that "it is nothing but the brainchild of Narendra Modi whose agenda is to promote Bridge course. They're not in any mood to develop an individual system medicine like promoting homeopathy or Ayurveda individually: there always in a mood to create a mess up of things."

To boost innovation and translational research in the country there's been the need for a major funding announcement for biomedical research which was absent from the Union Budget 2020.

PMJAY has also not seen any increment since what was announced last year, with which the possibilities of this dream insurance scheme's acting out on ground are less likely. The focus is directed to Ayushman Bharat scheme which is said to expand this year. No increase in allocation for Ayushman Bharat in comparison to 2019 Budget can never address the Health Problems of the Country.  Again it has been proved that the AyushmanBharat Bharat is a gimmick, expressed the former IMA President.

About the Ayushman Bharat scheme Dr Sen says it covers only certain types of diseases and "who is to say that a person can suffer from only these diseases?"

Also, the under utilisation of funds that are allocated is nothing new as remarked by senior IMA leader . 

He also views the PPP model which is directed towards government hospitals a "clear cut indication of privatisation" and serving as a boon for private players and ensuring more commercialisation in medical education.

On the overall impact of allocation of healthcare in the Union Budget 2020, Dr. Sen commented that "people of India do not expect anything from this government and this is just what was thought of". 

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