India on Thursday hiked its health budget by 27 percent in 2014-15 to Rs.35,163 crore (Rs.351.63 billion), with special focus on improving affordable healthcare for all. The government also hiked the allocation for AYUSH – Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Sidddha and Homoeopathy – by 36 percent. The department under the health ministry was allocated Rs.1,272.15 crore compared to Rs.935.75 crore in the last fiscal. With the focus on health research, the government also allocated more funds for it.

As the health ministry has a separate department for medical research, it was allocated Rs.1,017 crore compared to Rs.880 crore in the last fiscal – a jump of 15 percent. The NDA government wants to move towards ‘Health for All’ and to fulfill this aim on priority by providing free drug service and free diagnostic services. In keeping with the government’s focus on improving affordable healthcare and to augment the transfer of technology for better health care facilities in rural India, 15 Model Rural Health Research Centres will be set up in the states, which will take up research on local health issues concerning rural population.

All the six new AIIMS at Jodhpur, Bhopal, Patna, Rishikesh, Bhubaneswar and Raipur, which are part of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, have become functional. The government is planning to set up four more new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the country (Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Poorvanchal in Uttar Pradesh) with a corpus of Rs.500 crore.

The idea to have AIIMS-like institutes was proposed in 2003 by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and approved by the Manmohan Singh government in 2006. The aim is to provide good medical facilities at affordable rates in cities that don’t have such Medicare and also ensure quality medical education. The AIIMS in Delhi has emerged as north India’s best government hospital with over 1,800 beds. It treats over 9,000 people daily. Two National Institutes of Ageing will be set up at AIIMS in New Delhi and at the Madras Medical College in Chennai that to achieve universal access to early quality diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis patients. A national level research and referral institute for higher dental studies will be set up in one of the existing dental institutions.

At present 58 government medical colleges have been approved and there is a proposal to add 12 more government medical colleges. In addition, dental facilities would also be available in all the hospitals. For the first time, the government will provide central assistance to strengthen the states’ Drug Regulatory and Food Regulatory Systems by creating new drug testing laboratories and strengthening the 31 existing state laboratories. In the budget, medical education training and research got the lion’s share of Rs.51,10.8 crore. Last year, the allotment was Rs.46,37.51 crore. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government also laid emphasis on improving and upgrading public health so that people get better medical facilities. As India has 2.39 million HIV/AIDS patients, a separate department was created to control its spread and to form policies. The department was allotted Rs.1,785 crore compared to Rs.1,500 crore – a jump of 19 percent.

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