In the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Wednesday announced a Universal Health Coverage with an allocation of Rs 3,500 crore in the upcoming financial year as part of measures to reinforce health infrastructure in the state as well as to ensure that healthcare is more accessible to its citizens.
Presenting the state budget for 2021-22, Gehlot announced the ‘Rajasthan Model of Public Health’ (RMPH), wherein a Right to Health Bill will be brought, and that the state will take measures towards Preventive Care, Primary Care and Curative Care as envisioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Although he has previously said the state was working towards a Right to Health Bill, this is the first time it found mention in the state budget.
As part of the RMPH, and under the Universal Health Coverage plan, every family will get a Rs 5 lakh health cover. Those covered under Ayushman Bharat – Mahatma Gandhi Rajasthan Swasthya Bima Yojana (AB-MGRSBY) as well as contract workers, and small and marginal farmers will be eligible for free, while others can avail this scheme through 50 per cent cost of insurance premium (about Rs 850/year) at government and private hospitals for cashless treatment of up to Rs 5 lakh per year.
As for the Right to Health Bill – details of which are still being finalised – officials said it sought to guarantee quality healthcare to all citizens, without any “catastrophic” out of pocket financial burden on them. As per one of the drafts, the state hopes to ensure that no person is forced to pay any kind of fee or charge which may prevent the person from seeking complete medical care.
Other measures include ensuring primary healthcare services within three kilometres or 30 minutes walking distance to each citizen, primary care within 12 kilometres, and so on. The Bill also lays emphasis on rights of patients, especially their consent, and of service providers. Consent is expected to be made a “prerequisite” for any healthcare proposed for a person, and providers may have to keep patient records up to two years, and provide them to a patient upon request.
The government also plans to introduce a mechanism for grievance redressal within the healthcare services at every block and district level, hoping to adopt a congenial approach through Swasthya Jan Sunwai. The Bill may also include enhancing per capita budget to about Rs 3,000 annually. However, the government has not made any budgetary allocation for the Bill.
As part of reinforcing the state’s health infrastructure, Gehlot also announced nursing colleges at 25 district headquarters – with the other eight already having one – while Public Health Colleges are to be established in all seven divisional headquarters.
The CM also announced an increase in number of free tests under Mukhyamantri Nishulk Jaanch Yojna (MNJY). As many as 30 new PHCs were announced, while 50 PHCs will be upgraded to CHCs; Rs 206 crore is to be spent on construction of buildings for 40 CHCs and 25 PHCs. Four hospitals will be upgraded as district hospitals while 10 new trauma centres will be opened. Overall, at least 1,000 beds are to be added to hospitals in the state, the CM added.
As many as 11,000 Community Health Officers will be hired to help develop 11,000 PHCs, Urban PHCs and Up-Swasthya Kendras as Health and Wellness Centres, wherein different services will be provided in a phased manner.
The CM said that going by the Covid-19 experience, the state will set up an Institute of Tropical Medicine and Virology in Jaipur while an Institute of Cardiology will also be set up in the city at a cost of Rs 50 crore. Ashok Gehlot’s home turf Jodhpur will have Umaid Post Graduate Institute of Maternity and Neonatology as well as a Regional Cancer Institute.
Among other things, the CM also announced the constitution of a Hospital Management Cadre.