NEW DELHI: Central government hospitals, including Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Lady Hardinge Hospital, besides others, have witnessed a budget cut in the Financial Year (FY) 2020-2021, and it is feared that treatment facilities for poor patients in the capital may be affected due to this.

Although, with an increased outlay of about Rs 69,000 crore for the health sector with Rs 6,400 crore allocated for the Centre’s flagship health insurance scheme Prime Minister Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) in the current budget, the Centre has indicated its high priority for the health sector, it is feared that the slashing of budget for the aforementioned hospitals will affect the treatment of poor patients in the capital.

On 1 February, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced allocation of Rs 65,011.8 crore, up from Rs 62,659.12 crore in 2019-20 budget for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW); and Rs 2,122.08 crore for the Ministry of Ayush, while the Centre allocated Rs 2,100 crore to the Department of Health Research for carrying out research and development projects. However, the break-ups of the budget paper indicate a decline in budget for Central government-run hospitals in Delhi.  The actual budget for Safdarjung Hospital in the financial year 2019-2020 was Rs 1,212 crore and the revised budget for the same year was Rs 1,316 crore, but this year, the hospital has witnessed a budget cut and received Rs 1,167 crore allocation.

Similarly, RML Hospital, Lady Hardinge Hospital and Kalawati Saran Hospital in Delhi have witnessed a budget cut by the Central government. RML Hospital’s revised budget for 2019-2020 was Rs 883 crore; this year, the hospital has received Rs 754 crore, while Lady Hardinge Hospital received Rs 500 crore in 2019-2020, but this year, the hospital got a budget of Rs 451 crore, that is Rs 49 crore less from the previous year.

Besides the aforementioned hospitals, there are other Central government hospitals, too, that have witnessed a budget cut this year. Health experts see the Central government’s increased focus on promoting health facilities in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities as the reason behind a marginal budget cut for Central government hospitals in a Tier-1 city like Delhi.

The same motive was echoed in the budget speech of the Finance Minister when Nirmala Sitharaman said that India needs more health facilities in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities to provide healthcare services to poor people under the PMJAY scheme. Sitharaman also said that the Centre is working on expansion of the Jan Aushadhi Kendra Scheme.