Jun 7, 2017

Bihar Government promises to increase health spending on free medicines


Per capita per person government expenditure to increase from Rs 14 to Rs. 40

The Government of Bihar has promised to increase its health spending to provide free medicine and diagnostic services in government hospitals. Bihar Finance Minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui announced allocation of Rs 500 crore in financial year 2018-19 to enable government hospitals to provide free medicines for all.

A state level consultation was held, as part of Oxfam India and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan’s (JSA) joint campaign ‘Muft Dawa-Haq Hamara’, on 27 May. The consultation was attended by Bihar Finance Minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Land & Revenue Minister Madan Mohan Jha along with community members, JSA district partners and civil society representatives and other political leaders.

In 2015-16, the government reportedly spent Rs.155.56 crore on purchasing of medicines in Government hospitals.

Speaking on the occasion, Siddiqui said, “The government will take a closer look at the issue of free medicines and we are planning to allocate Rs 500 crore for buying medicines in government hospitals in financial year 2018-19. The per capita per person government expenditure will be increased from Rs 14 to Rs. 40.”

“Despite the government orders in Bihar to provide free medicines to patients in Government Hospitals in 2006 and during emergency conditions in 2013, there was no adequate allocation of budget. This actually jeopardized the implementation of the orders. The government hospitals could not afford to buy the medicines they should be distributing to the patients. Hence we thought of this campaign to seek a policy change towards fiscal provisioning as per needs of the people which is the first and foremost mandate for rolling out free medicines and diagnostics across the state,” said Oxfam India CEO Nisha Agrawal.

In 2016-17, the health budget stood at Rs 8,234.70 crore which was reduced to Rs 7001.52 crore in 2017-18.

The state outlay on health budget hovers around 1.5 to 2.5 per cent of total budget outlay as against recommended 10 per cent under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) guidelines.

Medicine constitute 50 to 80 per cent of health care costs in the state and account for 74 per cent of private out of pocket expenditure. Moreover, lab investigations are often outsourced by most state hospitals and are carried out after payment of user fees.

The 25-day campaign ‘Muft Dawa-Haq Hamara’ sought policy level changes through increased accountability of government. It also aimed for incremental fiscal provisioning through consultations with parliamentarians, media, youth and civil society organization. Several activities were held in the state to create awareness among individuals about their healthcare rights and entitlements at public health centres.

A fact sheet based on availability of drugs in Government facilities in 20 districts along with a review of budgetary allocations on drugs for last three years was also presented during the state level consultation.

The meeting was also attended by former health minister Nand Kishore Yadav, Janata Dal (United) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Sanjeev Chaurasia, Indian National Congress spokesperson Rajesh Rathore , Hindustani Awam Morcha Spokesperson Danish Rizwan, Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation leader Kumar Parvez, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party leader Kirti Prasad Sinha and Communist Party of India leader Ram Babu Kumar.