Govt, Plan panel spar over health projects

Amid differences between the Union Health Ministry and Planning Commission over allocation and contours of health programmes for the 12th plan, Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council (NAC) is likely to intervene and iron out the differences at its meeting here on Friday.  

The allocations for health, role of private doctors in public health care system, fate of long-pending national urban health mission and Planning Commission’s proposal to launch an omnibus national health mission are some of the contentious issues. NAC is expected to try and find out a truce formula after listening to both camps.

The draft chapter on health in the 12th plan document proposes an omnibus national health mission, which was also announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independent Day address. But the way it had been articulated is fraught with the danger of neglecting rural areas, which required more attention, Health Ministry sources said.

The Health Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office and Planning Commission were on-board to have separate national rural health mission and NUHM so as to standardise health set-ups in rural and urban areas. In the long run both the missions as well as national programmes on communicable and non-communicable diseases are to be integrated for the national health mission.

However, the Commission seems to have jumped the gun in dumping the NUHM, which will be deliberated at the NAC. The Union Cabinet has already sanctioned NRHM for the 12th plan and a separate proposal for NUHM is being framed.

The health set-ups in rural areas more or less conform to a uniform pattern while in urban areas the health set up varies widely not only from state to state but also for different category of local bodies within a state such as mega cities, metropolitan cities and municipal towns.

Health budget remains another contentious area. While the approach paper to the 12th plan clearly indicated at raising the total health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of GDP by the end of the plan period, Planning Commission in its draft chapter suggested an allocation of 1.58 per cent of GDP.

The government’s plan on universal health coverage is another area of disagreement with the health ministry accusing the Planning Commission of selectively using the report of the high-level expert group, headed by K Srinath Reddy, who heads the Public Health Foundation of India.

The ministry criticised the Planning Commission for roping in private doctors in managing government healthcare – albeit on a pilot scale – rather than strengthening the public system.

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