Delhi budget: Government to open 500 neighbourhood clinics

NEW DELHI: The government will spend Rs 125 crore on opening 500 new neighbourhood clinics before April 2016 to improve basic health services and end quackery, besides taking the load off tertiary care hospitals.

After education, healthcare has got the maximum increase in budgetary allocation this year. The government has proposed to spend Rs 4,787 crore on the sector, of which Rs 3,138 is for the plan budget45% more than the corresponding fi gure for 2014-15.

Expansion of health infrastructure is high on the government's agenda. It has proposed to increase the number of hospital beds by 10,000 in two and a half years and 1,000 by the end of this fi nancial year. A budget provision of Rs 210 crore has been proposed in the current fi nancial year for buying plots for augmenting health infrastructure in Mehrauli, Mahipalpur, Pitampura and Dwarka, among others.

Setting up of a trauma centre in Lok Nayak Hospital, which has been mentioned in previous budgets also, is also on the agenda of the government. The budget proposes to introduce sports injury rehabilitation in the emergency facility.

To curb corruption in purchase of medicines and equipment, the state government has ruled that all procurements will be centralized. Delhi's infant mortality rate is 22 per 1,000 births, which is high compared to states such as Kerala where the IMR is 12 per 1,000 births. The government plans to take up the immunization programme in mission mode to check this.

For the poor, the government has said booking of free beds in 42 private hospitals will be done online. Experts questioned the usefulness of this step as most poor people do not have access to the internet.

While the AAP government plans major expansion of health infrastructure, it hasn't explained where it will get the manpower from. "Sushruta Trauma Centre, the only such facility run by the state, has remained nonfunctional for years as they have not been able to hire super-specialists to run it. Same is the case with two super-specialty hospitals built in Janakpuri, west Delhi and Tahirpur, east Delhi for more than Rs 350 crore," said a senior doctor with DDU Hospital.

He said the recent health crisis due to the strike by resident doctors also highlighted the lack of availability of essential medicines, nursing staff and a funds crunch. "Building new hospitals is fi ne, but the government must have robust plans to run them," he said.