Health Free for All
Things have never been so exciting in Haryana,” says Director General of Health Services Dr Narbir Singh. He’s the man who has overseen the state’s unprecedented transformation on the healthcare front, courtesy the 300-fold increase in governmental spending on health since 2004-05. Haryana’s budgetary allocation for 2011-12 is Rs 478.31 crore. In 2009, Haryana launched an audit, with the target of screening 30.65 lakh children, to frame a health policy. What followed was a flood of never-before schemes. Actively backed by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Health Secretary Navraj Sandhu, Dr Singh and a team of doctors implemented health schemes that include free essential medicines, deliveries and neonatal healthcare in government hospitals.
Surgery is free for BPL patients and subsidised for others in state hospitals. Caesarean sections and cleft lip surgeries are free for all. And under the Rashtriya Arogya Swasthya Nidhi scheme launched in 2005-06, BPL families can get free specialised tertiary medical care at all hospitals. Health department figures show 1,42,096 patients have benefited from the scheme until May 2011. “We even provide free nutritional diets to pregnant mothers,” says Dr Singh, adding Haryana’s successes are drawing a flood of enquiries from other states. A team of health experts from Boston University that recently toured district hospitals and blocklevel dispensaries in the state said it had “never witnessed a turnaround on such a scale”, says Dr Singh.
The turnaround began in 2005 with a highly liberalised and decentralised doctor recruitment policy under which nearly 3,000 new physicians and surgeons were hired based on walk-in interviews. Doctors volunteering to work in the most backward Muslim-dominated Mewat district were offered an incentive of Rs 25,000 per month. “We have filled all but 200