The Union Budget 2023-24 has allocated a marginally higher amount in the health sector as compared to the allocation of the 2022-23 Budget in that sector. In 2023-24, Rs. 89,155 crore has been allocated whereas in 2022-23 it was Rs. 86,200 crore. Of this allocation in 23-24, ` 86,175 crore has been allocated for the Department of Health and Family Welfare while Rs. 2,980 crore has been allocated to health research. The share of health allocation is 2.1% of the GDP.The national Health Policy 2017 has been an excellent health policy, according to many analysts. In this policy it was mentioned that the government would spend 2.5% of GDP by 2025.Some major policy announcementsThe most notable announcement in the Budget for the sector has been the announcement to establish 157 new nursing colleges. Those will be made in the same campuses of the new medical colleges made under the centrally sponsored scheme from 2014. This is a very welcome decision. This is because there has been a huge shortage of qualified nurses in the country. Ravi Wankhedker, former President, Indian Medical Association, reportedly said (February 2, Indian Express) that the shortage of qualified nurses is higher than that of doctors. At the same time, he also said that the government also needs to look at the shortage of teachers in nursing colleges before establishing the new colleges. It was also reported that the nursing unions and doctors pointed out the poor infrastructure of the existing nursing colleges.Secondly, the Budget has allocated funds for a mission to end sickle cell anaemia (SCA) by 2047. The SCA has been a blood disorder with a high prevalence among the tribal population. The finance minister stated that the mission would entail awareness creation and universal screening of the age group of 0-40 years in the effective population.Another important announcement is a new pharmaceutical manufacturing programme. India’s pharmaceutical sector is well-known. India is a foremost exporter of generic medicines. But other than producing common drugs and generic medicines, India’s status in this sector is not so well. So, the need of the hour has been to become an innovator of modern drugs at affordable prices in the global market. Sitharaman has announced rolling out of programmes to promote R&D in pharmaceuticals. For this purpose, centres Kishore Kumar Biswas2023-24 Health BudgetMore emphasis was needed in health infra spendingof excellence are required. From FY 24 both private and public sector medical institutions can work in collaboration with selected ICMR labs facilities across India. This will develop public-private partnership in drug development.Some important sectors which could have given higher allocation and importanceThe health sector has received higher funds for FY24. But some important sectors were allocated lesser funds as compared to FY23. That is, capital expenditure in health infrastructure has been lowered in the Budget for FY24. The current Budget allocates Rs. 5,300.34 crore in this sector which is lower compared to the previous allocation in FY 23’s by Rs. 332 crore.In one flagship health programme, Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Infrastructure Mission, allocation is reduced to Rs. 645.8 crore in Budget 24 from ` 978 crore in Budget 23. The purpose of the Mission has been to set up and strengthen health and wellness centres like critical care blocks and surveillance units.Another important area has been Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna in which allocation has been lowered to ` 3,365 crore from `10,000 crore in the last Budget. Moreover, in the scheme Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan, package allocation has been reduced to almost nil.The National Digital Health Mission which is meant for digitally recording health related issues has seen an increase in allocation. In this sector allocation has been increased to Rs.341 crore from `200 crore in last year’s Budget.
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