A good budgetary allocation to the health sector this year was much anticipated given the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic, the sector, however, saw little real increase in the allocation.
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has set aside Rs 11,908 crore (4% of the total budget) to the Health and Family Welfare Department for 2021-22, a marginal increase over the last year’s Rs 10,122 crore. Experts say even last year, health was 4% of the total budget and that the increase in absolute numbers was not enough.
Dr Giridhar Babu, professor, Head-Lifecourse Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India, told DH, “The budget is too curative-centric and does not focus on strengthening preventive health services, which is the need of the hour, especially in a post-pandemic world.
“There is very little for public sector as such. Even in public health, there is very little on what you would hope to see, given that we have just been through the Covid-19 pandemic. Even in the last budget, it was 4%. The real question is how much of this is being spent on salaries, reimbursement of health insurance claims, and how much is for public health. We don’t have that split,” he said.
“What have we learnt from the Covid-19? The least we could have done is to make some judicious investments in preventing future pandemics. Allocations for improving Covid-19 surveillance have not been done. We don’t see any initiative to improve urban primary healthcare, which was a major problem in Covid-19 contact tracing,” Babu said.
A super speciality hospital for urban poor and migrant labourers in Bengaluru has been proposed. “When the government has already taken care of their expenses, having another structure is not going to fix real problems like lack of primary healthcare for the urban poor. So there is a lack of focus on public health,” he said.
“Out of 11,000-plus crore the health budget, only Rs 5 crore has been allocated to mother and child development, which is a complex inter-generational problem and requires complex mechanisms from childhood nutritional health perspective,” he said.
Many announcements in the budget, like the super speciality hospital in north Bengaluru, a burns treatment centre in Kalaburagi, Institute of Medical Sciences, and up-gradation of Ayush College in Shivamogga into Ayush University, did not have any fund allocation.