Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday announced additional funding of Rs 23,220 crore for setting up paediatric beds and facilities in hospitals.
Announcing a set of measures for reviving the economy battered by a severe second wave of COVID-19, Finance Minister Sitharaman also announced a Rs 50,000 crore credit guarantee scheme for setting up of medical or health infrastructure by private hospitals in cities other than eight metropolitan cities.
"We are now providing Rs 23,220 crore more primarily focussing on children and paediatric care. This Rs 23,220 crore will be spent this financial year itself.
"It will also focus on funding of HR augmentation so that medical students, interns, nurses can also be brought in for helping in such emergencies, ICU beds will be made available, oxygen supply at central, district and subdistrict level will be ensured and also making sure that equipments and medicines, teleconsultation and ambulance service... all of that will be taken care of with primary focus on children. So paediatric care is the emphasis," FM Sitharaman said at a press conference.
She said last year a Rs 15,000 crore emergency health systems project was implemented. Using that Rs 15,000 crore, there was a 25-fold increase in Covid dedicated hospitals.
Besides, 7,929 Covid health centres and 9,954 Covid care centres were set up, and oxygen supported beds increased by 7.5 times. There was also an increase in isolation beds and ICU beds by 42-fold and 45-fold, respectively.
"The Rs 15,000 crore which was used till March 2021 aiming at providing additional infrastructure and facilitating Covid care had good response and now Rs 23,220 crore is being provided with primary focus on children, but others also will benefit from it," the minister added.
Explaining the funding mechanism for the health sector, Expenditure Secretary T V Somanathan said the Rs 23,220 crore has been made available to the Ministry of Health immediately.
"It is part of this year's budget spending available to Ministry of Health as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to be distributed to states and to be used in the National Health Mission.
"There is already a National Health Mission, this will be additional funding for a new set of outputs which is available immediately. This (Rs 23,220 crore) is available immediately, the pace of expenditure will depend on how quickly the states are able to do what needs to be done. We are ensuring that funding is not a constraint," Secretary Somanathan added.
Centrally sponsored schemes are jointly funded by the Centre and states.
The new scheme for public health will have an outlay of Rs 23,220 crore, of which central share would be Rs 15,000 crore, as per the presentation made by the finance ministry.
Some experts have warned that a third Covid wave may affect children more than adults.
The Rs 50,000 crore credit guarantee scheme for health sector announced by FM Sitharaman is for a maximum loan amount of Rs 100 crore for up to 3 years.
The interest rate is capped at 7.95 per cent, meaning banks can lend below that rate to health sector for upscaling medical infrastructure targeting under-served areas.
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