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Budget 2017: Number of measures in healthcare but not huge in net impact

By E Kumar Sharma     February 1, 2017

It was a budget which seem to be finally stating action in the healthcare sector. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, many in the sector felt, began well when he said: "Action plan has been prepared to eliminate Kala azar, Filariasis by 2017, leprosy by 2018, measles by 2020 and elimination of tuberculosis by 2025."

Also, he talked of an  action plan to reduce IMR (infant mortality rate) from 39 per 100 live births in 2014 to 28 per 1000 live births in 2019. MMR (maternal mortality rate) from 167 per one lakh  live births from 2011-13 to 100 per one lakh live births by 2018-20."

What he did not say is the plan of action and how it will be done.

Many, like Sangita Reddy , joint managing  director, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise, saw the move to ensure 1.5 lakh health sub-centres (primary health centres ) be transformed into health wellness centres (and looking at overall health) as a very good move. However, there are many others who are not clear how it will be done. Most important, if the budget allocation is broken down into various components, many felt, it does not seem like there is a huge allocation for this.

Many also liked the announcement on dealing with the skill availability in the form of specialist doctors but again the quantum is too small for a country of India's size given that the finance minister said the move was to ensure adequate availability of specialist doctors to strengthen secondary and tertiary levels of healthcare.

The additional 5,000 post graduate seats per annum and steps to all DNB courses to be allowed in big district hospitals. Also, to encourage reputed private hospitals to start DNB courses, is found to be positive but not hugely impactful with the numbers for a country of a billion plus people. This is despite, he having also said the government "is also committed to take necessary steps for structural transformation of the regulatory framework of the medical education and practise in India."


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