New Delhi: Denying any move to privatise public sector healthcare, the Planning Commission today said it has made a strong case for strengthening it and converting 600 district hospitals into medical colleges over the next decade.
The Commission’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia also pitched for setting up of a centralised medicine procurement agency for government hospitals in the country.
“There is lot of confusion whether we (the Commission) are privatising the health system. This is actually false. We have categorically said that public sector part of the health system has to be hugely strengthened,” he said.
Recently, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a body of health activists, charged the government with planning to abandon its role of providing healthcare to the people.
“We (the Commission) are at the moment getting views (on Health Chapter in 12th Plan). The chapter will be finalised by the end of this month. Health activists and advocates would want that total
expenditure of centre and state during the 12th Plan period should go up to 2.5 percent of GDP. But there are resource constraints,” Ahluwalia added.
“Our preliminary assessment is that if we are going to do a lot more in clean drinking water and sanitation side….if you add that to curative health, then it (health expenditure) would reach up to the level (2.5 per cent of GDP) they are talking about.” He further said, “If you talk only about curative health then it may not be possible to reach the 2.5 percent of GDP during the current Plan…there are resource constraints and there are other priorities also.”
Ahluwalia said the Commission has envisaged 40 percent growth in (health) expenditure every year which is
Noting that one of the biggest constraints in health sector is short supply of skilled personnel, he said, “We are going to increase number of (medical) seats in the country. Every district hospital can be upgraded into a medical college.”
“The 600 district hospitals cannot be made medical college in one Plan period, but it can be done in two (five year) Plan period. The truth is we need a lot of doctors. We will give some assistance (funds) for that, ” he added.
The Commission, he said, “is very keen to increase the autonomy of hospitals within the public sector system. That is not corporatising the hospital”.
Ahluwalia also supported the view of the High Level Expert Group on Health headed by Srinath Reddy that the government needed much more public health specialists and a separate (services)cadre for public health (procurement) like the one existing in Tamil Nadu.
“We also need to put in management expertise in hospital because many health specialists spend a lot of their time on it (administration),” he added.
The Commission is also making a case for centralised procurement of generic medicines which would be provided free by public hospitals, he said.
“There should be all India procurement, ensure top quality and make sure if somebody steps in government
hospital, he does not have to buy medicine,” he added.