The cabinet has approved a Rs. 5,071 crore package for state-run medical colleges and hospitals across 18 states to improve treatment infrastructure in specialities, such as cardiology, oncology and neurology, an announcement being withheld because a “code of conduct” in force doesn’t allow schemes to be publicised when polls are due.
The allocation will go to 39 medical colleges, the backbone of India’s stressed state-run healthcare system and also kick off the third phase of the “Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana” health scheme.
The medical colleges will have to utilise these funds within 43 months, a senior official said.
Most Indians can’t afford private medical facilities, thronged by foreign patients because they are highly skilled and yet cheap by global standards. So, many poor Indians must rely on an overburdened and underfunded public healthcare system.
Rural healthcare is crippled in many states, such as West Bengal, which has hogged headlines for a record number of infant deaths, especially in the state-run BC Roy Hospital. Each one of the 39 medical colleges and hospitals will be allocated over Rs. 150 crore under the scheme, with a corresponding share of Rs. 30 crore by states in which they are located.
The first phase of the scheme has already covered 13 state-run hospitals, while the second phase had covered six. With the latest expansion, the scheme would have covered 58 medical colleges involving an expenditure of Rs. 7,111 crore.
However, even with these funds, India’s social sector pending remains paltry compared to emerging economies, with the country spending just 1.2% of its GDP on healthcare. Of this, the central government spends just 0.3%.
Three up-country medical colleges in West Bengal figure in the list.