The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to provide the court with a detailed break-up of budgetary allocation and expenditure by the state on healthcare, while acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an Ahmedabad-based retired doctor.
As per the directive of the division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Anant Dave, the state is also expected to provide the details of expenditure and budgetary allocation for government institutions vis-a-vis government-aided institutions and other healthcare institutions that may be run by charitable trusts. The budgetary break-up to be provided by the state, is expected to include the Centre’s allocation for Gujarat’s health budget as well as the state’s healthcare budget.
Petitioner’s advocate Khemchand Koshti raised a contention that the state’s healthcare expenditure was towards strengthening government-aided private medical institutions, instead of focusing solely on providing better healthcare.
The petitioner highlighted that there are 87 such semi- private institutions in the state that receive aid from the government, despite a lack of sub-centres, primary healthcare centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs) along with a shortage of 11 district hospitals of the total 33 districts, as per 2017 data. The petitioner has also alleged a shortage of staff, as per Rural Health Statistics (RHS), 2017 records.
Relying on budgetary reports, the petitioner, Dr Madhavji Gajera (64), said, “…budgetary data of Gujarat reveals that during the period of 2006-07 to 2016-17, the budgetary provisions for healthcare in Gujarat ranged between 0.41 to 0.75% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) and 2.87 to 5.53% of total Government expenditure, which as per the international norms should be minimum 3 to 5% and 15 % respectively, but not being implemented at all even after 70 years of independence… A press report dated April 11, 2017 published by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare reveals that the Government expenditure on health in India is only in the range of 1.1 to 1.2% of GDP.”
The PIL says that approximately 60-70 per cent of the total health budget allocation should go for PHC services, “which is not allocated at present and this aggravates the situation further”.
This in turn, is further aggravated by “local and focal outbreaks of different communicable diseases like – chikungunya, swine flu, leptospirosis, Chandipura viral encephalitis, zika, etc., in Gujarat. This disrupts the routine health services with increased financial burden and loss of lives of people”, the petition said.
The petition filed in December 2018, sought court’s direction to upgrade all the existing and newly created primary and secondary health care facilities in “strict adherence with the Indian Public Health Standards with provision of adequate infrastructure and manpower”.
The Gujarat government is expected to file its reply by July 1.