Little for public health, more for private sector

Allocation does little for public health, more for private sector

Free prepaid health cards will be distributed to one lakh registered construction labourers and their families. DH File Photo

For a state which compares with UK in area and population, the health allocations are simply at a bare minimum for public health, experts here said about the state health budget. The proposals are mostly wasting taxpayers’ money and are bad for public health, they felt. 

Free prepaid health cards will be distributed to one lakh registered construction labourers and their families by which they can avail of treatment in approved private hospitals under the “Mukhyamantrigala Arogya Suraksha” scheme. “This is the only public health measure I saw. Even this is directing patients to private hospitals,” Dr Giridhar Babu said Professor and Head of Lifecourse Epidemiology, Indian Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru.

“I do not think that the policymakers are actually assessing the public health scenario in the state. With each successive budget, the state government is promoting the for-profit private sector. This time it is setting up intensive care units in taluk hospitals and peritoneal dialysis instead of finding everyone who has hypertension and diabetes, treat them to prevent them from ending up in ICUs or with kidney failure,” he said. 

He added that the government was looking at the other end of the spectrum. “Most of the proposed spending in this budget is diabolical; expecting people to get sick and treat, instead of preventing or managing illness at an early stage,” he added.

However, Dr Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals, felt that the upgrade with telemedicine at primary health centres, and the creation of wellness centres are  much-needed initiatives because primary health centres and wellness centres are the backbones of healthcare in any country.

“Provision of healthcare cards for the construction workers and their families is a very good move. They come under unorganised sector and do not have any healthcare schemes,” he said. He also lauded the proposal to upgrade Sirsi hospital to a 200-bedded hospital as a much-needed step as the healthcare services in North Kanara needed to improve.

The upgrade of the emergency services in many hospitals in Bengaluru and also neonatal centres in many hospitals was a need. Helping the congenitally deaf and promotion of peritoneal dialysis was also a good measure, he felt.

“In the future, we need to consider investing in health care insurance for the middle class who constitute a significant percentage of the population but do not have any organised health care cover,”
he said.