Spends barely 25 pc of what it did four decades ago.
Till the eighties, Punjab healthcare was considered the best in the country, until the state decided to turn a facilitator instead of service provider. This cost the people of the state dear.
According to experts, whether per capita availability of health institutions in the public sector or availability of staff —including doctors, nurses and paramedics—Punjab was rated one of the best states in the country. “In the nineties, the state took its first step towards privatisation, establishing Punjab Health Systems Corporation, getting a loan of Rs 422 crore from the World Bank,” says Dr. Pyara Lal Garg, who then headed a government doctors’ association.
“As per the agreement, the state was to get Rs 60 crore annually. Of the total loan amount, the government spent Rs 277 crore on constructing buildings and the rest for purchasing equipment, which later turned into junk,” says Dr. Garg. With the setting up of the health corporation, the state government introduced user charges in government hospitals, increasing the existing charges manifold.
Since then, the state spending on health has declined continuously. According to health economists, when a state spends less, people have to spend more from their pocket to access healthcare services. Past record reveals the state has been spending only 25 percent of what it used to four decades back, virtually washing its hands of healthcare services.
As per the National Health Profile 2015, a family in Punjab spends Rs 196.5 from its own pocket every month on healthcare whereas a family in Haryana spends Rs 131, in Jammu & Kashmir Rs 95 and Himachal Pradesh Rs 134.5 On the government move to run rural health institutions in the PPP mode (pilot basis) Prof Rajesh Kumar, head, School of Public Health, PGI, Chandigarh, says: “Instead of private players, primary health centres should be given to panchayats, who are the main stakeholders.”