Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express

The  maiden budget of the second LDF government presented by Finance  Minister KN Balagopal comes in the middle of the  second wave of Covid-19. Ahead of the possible third wave of Covid-19,  the budget prioritised the health sector and put forth key initiatives  to expand preventive healthcare facilities in the state, sending a  message that the government is prepared to fight upcoming challenges.  The  budget, overall, has given clear emphasis on research, collaborative  approach and market economy, giving us important cues about the government’s focus areas and intent at this given juncture.

The  speech focused on strengthening the core aspects of health  infrastructure by introducing isolation wards for contagious diseases at  all community health centres, taluk, district and general hospitals; independent blocks in medical college hospitals for combating contagious diseases; enhancing bed strength of pediatric ICUs; setting up liquid medical  oxygen plant of 150-tonne capacity via PPP, and promoting vaccine  research and development by encouraging manufacturers to set up units in  Kerala.

Besides, it also mentioned the creation of a conducive  industrial ecosystem for the production of consumables and equipment  related to medical care.  Atypical of the Left government, a fresh and welcome development across many of these proposed initiatives is the  recognition given to the role of private entities in Kerala’s revival story. This is a marked departure from its conventional route of setting  up a public sector unit.

Overall, the initiatives are aimed at  building a system that is ready and responsive to protect the public from emerging threats. However, this requires institutionalising the  processes. It is not only the investment in infrastructure or  collaborative approach that will improve the services, it requires a network of professionals and trained manpower to augment the operations  of the healthcare system. 

Covid-19 has showcased that public  healthcare cannot be confined to health infrastructure, doctors and nurses alone, but must have a permanent cadre comprising all  relevant  stakeholders. Kerala’s experience particularly shows that coordination  among the various stakeholders including the administrative mechanisms,institutional arrangements (government and  non-governmental), media, social workers, law enforcement agencies,  technology, domain experts and academia etc are critical for effective  strategy making in tackling a pandemic like Covid-19.

This necessitates  an establishment of a permanent public healthcare cadre that would be a collective of the aforesaid stakeholders directed to establish a  framework for improving coordination and collaboration with  stakeholders. The body should be responsible for creating a  forward-looking response framework and take swift action backed by  scientific evidence in the event of any public health eventualities. 

The  CDC Model (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) and the emphasis on the research on public health is a step in the right direction to  combat future pandemics. As the economy and healthcare systems try to emerge from the crisis, it is imperative to build a system that is backed by scientific evidence and provide immediate leadership in  response to health emergencies. Altogether, the budget reflects  an open and accommodative stance taken by the government by welcoming  collaboration, participation of various stakeholders and encouraging  investments.

(The writer is a Senior Associate, Research, at Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi)

This article was first published in The New Indian Express

Nissy Solomon
Nissy Solomon
Nissy Solomon is Senior Research Associate at CPPR Centre for Comparative Studies. Prior to her venture into the public policy domain, she had worked as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst with Nokia-Heremaps. Her postgraduate research explored the interface of GIS in Indian healthcare planning. She is broadly interested in Public Policy, Economic Development and Spatial Analysis for policymaking. She has an MA in Economics (University of Bombay) and an MA in Public Policy (National Law School of India University, Bangalore). She can be contacted by email at nissy@cppr.in

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