Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid the foundation of the budget as she began Part A of her speech saying, “At the outset, I would like to say that the investment on Health Infrastructure in this Budget has increased substantially. Progressively, as institutions absorb more, we shall commit more. Taking a holistic approach to Health, we focus on strengthening three areas: Preventive, Curative, and Wellbeing.”
The finance minister announced anew centrally sponsored scheme – Pradhan Mantri Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana – with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years. Under the new scheme, the government would support 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban health and wellness centers, set up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3,382 block public health units in 11 states, establish critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions, strengthen National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), its five regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units and expand Integrated Health Information Portal to all states/UTs.
Health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that this emphasised the Centre’s commitment to enhancing health capacity of the nation. “When we started our fight against Covid-19 in March, we had only one laboratory (NIV Pune) where tests could be conducted. But now under the new scheme four such regional NIVs would be established,” he said.
Experts have welcomed the move. Rohitashwa Prasad, partner, J Sagar Associates, said, “For FY21, the Centre had budgeted Rs 69,000 crore for healthcare, which was 1.6% of GDP. The budgeted amount for FY22 shows a significant increase. If this growth were to be extrapolated, the government would achieve the target of healthcare spend of 2.5-3% of GDP (as envisaged in the National Health Policy 2017) well before its target date.”