Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s maiden Budget got a thumbs up from the health sector with his announcement of setting up 12 new medical colleges, one All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in each state, free drugs and diagnostic services for the poor, launch of a National Rural Internet and Technology Mission, and increase in excise on tobacco and sugary drinks.
To strengthen health services nationwide, Jaitley announced the setting up an AIIMS in each state that doesn’t have one in the coming years. "You can’t have a Bihar or a Jharkhand without quality healthcare. Therefore, on a non-discriminatory basis, I will ensure every state gets one, whether it’s an NDA state, an Opposition state or Left state," said Jaitley, in an interview to DD News.
He allocated Rs 500 crore for four AIIMS under construction in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Vidarbha and Purvanchal.
The finance minister also announced the setting up of 12 new government medical colleges.
"Overall, without increasing allocation, the finance minister sensitively and extensively included key health issues in the Budget. Sanitation for all and safe drinking water will ensure a large population will never need to go to a hospital," said Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman, Medanta – The Medicity.
"Leveraging the PPP model is a great step as it will fill the gap in the delivery of quality care to rural India," added Trehan.
Telemedicine got a boost with the setting up of Rs 500 crore for National Rural Internet and Technology Mission and the setting up of 15 Model Rural Health Research Centres for rural health issues. "This will hugely boost the last-mile reach. Just a mobile phone can help deliver quality care to people, but if there’s no connectivity, you can do little," said Dr Devi Shetty, chairman, Narayana Health.
"The hike in excise duty on cigarettes and other tobacco products between 11% and 72% and on chewing tobacco from 60% to 70%, is a step in disease prevention, as is the 5% increase in sugar-sweetened beverages," said Dr Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India.