Budget 2021

For the first time, Budget mentions of ‘One Health’ institution on the back of Covid-19 pandemic

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on February 01, 2021

₹ 64,180 crore fund earmarked for healthcare systems in the Budget

Beyond the spending on vaccines, the influence of Covid-19 can be seen in Budget 2021’s allocation towards strengthening disease surveillance in the country.

Part of the ₹64,180 crore earmarked for the PM AtmaNirbharSwasth Bharat Yojana over six years will go towards beefing up the National Centre for Disease Control and its five regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units; setting up nine bio-safety level III laboratories and four regional National Institutes for Virology. Also outlined in the Budget speech are plans to operationalise 17 new Public Health Units and strengthen 33 existing Public Health Units at points of entry at 32 Airports, 11 Seaports and 7 land crossings.

The funds would go towards developing capacities of “primary, secondary, and tertiary care Health Systems, strengthen existing national institutions, and create new institutions, to cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases,”the Finance Minister said.

National institution

There is also mention of a national institution for One Health, a concept that looks at health from an all-inclusive human, animal and environment perspective.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, virologists have stressed the need for increased disease surveillance and diagnostic capabilities to tackle the next outbreak, when it happens. In fact, the Budget indicates that the funds would also support “setting up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3,382 block public health units in 11 states.”

For the first time, a Budget statement starts with the mention of health, coming on the back of the pandemic, says Vishal Bali, Executive Chairman, Asia Healthcare Holdings. Much though will depend on whether the funds are for infrastructure alone or services too, and importantly how the scheme is implemented.

Several health voices point to the absence of the mention of the Government’s flagship health insurance scheme, popular as Ayushman Bharat. They further pointed to the inclusion of water and sanitation and nutrition in the healthcare allocation. While this was good in terms of viewing health as an integrated issue, an expert pointed out, it did not reflect a steep increase in the dedicated spending on health as compared to the previous year, since different factors were included this year.

Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, lauded the direction of the Budget in putting health on centre-stage. But private hospitals had played a major role in tackling the coronavirus and they did a “remarkable job,” says Raghuvanshi, Managing Director and CEO, Fortis Healthcare, disappointed that the Budget did not take this into consideration. Private hospitals had taken a major financial hit in the early months of the pandemic, and the sector was hoping that the Centre would extend some concessions to help reduce the impact, he said.

Published on February 01, 2021

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