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Maharashtra budget proposes 7 per cent lower spend on public health, Health News, ET HealthWorld

Mumbai: The budget allocation for public health in the state dropped by 7 per cent for 2023-24 against 2022-23, sparking criticism among social activists. Despite the glaring inadequacies in the public health system brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic, experts pointed out that the government earmarked less than 4% of its overall budget for public health and medical education.

The proposed allocation for public health was Rs 14,726 crore compared to the Rs 15,860 crore spent in 2022-23, as per the civil budget estimates. Within this allocation, Rs 3,501 crore is earmarked for schemes.

The medical education department has been allocated Rs 6,497 crore, which is an increase from the Rs 5,679 crore spent in 2022-23. An outlay of Rs 2,355 crore is proposed for scheme expenditure in the medical education and drugs department for 2023-24. Overall, the state allocated Rs 21,223 crore from its budget to both arms of its healthcare system, which public health experts termed inadequate.

The healthcare budget includes both primary and tertiary components. The government announced the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Jan Arogya Yojana (MJPJAY) coverage would be expanded to increase coverage for each family. The state plans to replicate the success of the Hridayasamrat Balasaheb Thackeray polyclinic model from the city for primary healthcare across the state. The‘Aapla Dawakhana’ initiative will be launched in the state with 700 clinics.

Public health economist Ravi Duggal said a decline in healthcare allocation was unfortunate, and if inflation was taken into account, then the decline was 13 per cent. He said the money for hospitals and dispensaries was 14 per cent less with inflation. Public health activist Dr Arun Gadre said despite repeated demands, the state failed to allocate even 5 per cent for healthcare. He commended the impetus on primary healthcare by opening 700 health clinics but asked if there were enough doctors and medical supplies.

The state proposed to address the growing incidence of mental illness and addiction with de-addiction centers at Jalna, Bhiwandi, Pune and Nagpur. It allocated Rs 850 crore for mental health hospitals in Thane and Kolhapur.

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