The Union budget recently presented in the Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman enhanced the allocation for healthcare significantly. A wise move, this underscored the Centre’s priorities with investment in health taking the top spot. The Odisha government, too, is likely to do the same in its upcoming budget.
One of the most important lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic has been the urgent need to boost healthcare with infrastructure development as well as investment in human resources for more doctors and paramedical staff. Thanks to the foresight of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Odisha has fared much better than most other Indian states in this regard, but there is still scope for improvement. A visionary leader, Patnaik has made special efforts over the years to attract investments in the health sector as he realizes the importance of private sector participation in this area.
In 2018, Odisha’s health sector had received investment commitments worth Rs 2,750 crore, including for affordable healthcare projects at 25 locations in the public-private partnership mode. There were proposals for setting up a cardiac care centre at Jharsuguda and a comprehensive cancer care programme.
Patnaik has been conscious of state’s health needs right since his early days as the Chief Minister of the state in 2000 when Odisha had a notoriously high infant mortality rate and average life expectancy in the state was poor. Thanks to the initiatives launched by him, the state has reduced infant mortality rate significantly. A comprehensive child health plan was developed and infant mortality resulting from several diseases was brought down appreciably.
The state, which has achieved commendable success in malaria control as well, has invested heavily in infrastructure with the opening of new health sub-centres, primary health centres and community health centres. Most of the district headquarter hospitals have been upgraded with good buildings and state-of-the-art equipment. This has been a big relief to the poor people residing in far-off areas who were earlier forced to make expensive trips to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack for treatment.
There have been attempts at reforms with distribution of human resources for health equitably across rural and urban areas. Doctors willing to serve in remote and tribal-dominated areas, where health services have been traditionally poor, were offered monetary incentives. At one stage, an integrated health policy was formulated with emphasis on more equitable distribution of resources between rural and urban areas, lower and higher income districts, and allopathic and Indian systems of medicine.
Thanks to such initiatives taken in the past, Odisha was much better prepared than most other states of the country to deal with the corona pandemic which took a heavy toll of human life across the country. Odisha raised its guard against the virus rather early and set up the first dedicated Covid-19 hospitals in the country. No wonder the state succeeded in bringing the situation under control much faster than others with cases of mortality coming down practically to zero and the number of positive cases, too, getting reduced significantly. With the Chief Minister looking to invest more in the health sector, people of the state can rest assured that their health problems will be taken care of adequately.