Health Ministry demands Rs 54 billion for the next fiscal year

  • Progress cannot be made on Sustainable Development Goal indicators without sufficient funds, officials say
- ARJUN POUDEL, Kathmandu

May 16, 2019-

The Ministry of Health and Population has demanded Rs 54 billion—Rs 400 million more than the current budget allocated to the Health Ministry—for the upcoming fiscal year. However, the Ministry of Finance says the ceiling for the ministry’s budget is Rs 34.4 billion.

Officials at the Health Ministry said that insufficient budget in the next fiscal year would mean they will not be able to invest in the programmes launched to achieve Sustainable Development Goal targets.

The government had committed to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), a collection of 17 goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.

“Due to lack of sufficient budget this fiscal year, we could not run important health programmes, such as safe motherhood programmes and the disadvantaged citizen medical treatment programmes smoothly,” said Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, spokesperson for the ministry. “How are we expected to invest in additional programmes without sufficient budget?”

According to Shrestha, the government has to invest additional amounts in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health cares to achieve the SDG target. Likewise, the country has to overcome existing problems of infectious and non-communicable diseases and strengthen the health care systems to achieve the targets.

The Health Ministry has to also deal with several other emerging challenges, such as adverse weather effects and its health consequences on the population.

Leprosy was eliminated about a decade ago but we are seeing its resurgence now. Malaria, kalajar, dengue and other diseases are also seen in districts that were considered non-endemic in the past,” said Shrestha. “Coverage of immunisation has also declined in recent years. And we need enough budget to deal with all these problems.”

Officials said the plan to expand services in government-run health facilities—extension of birthing centers, training for safe birth attendance, sending nurses to households to provide postnatal care—would be jeopardised if the concerns of the Health Ministry are not taken into account.

Due to the failure of the government to provide sufficient budget to hospitals and birthing centers, thousands of new mothers seeking free delivery services have been deprived of allowance declared by the government this year.

Likewise, the Ministry of Finance has also failed to reimburse health facilities providing treatment to ‘disadvantaged citizens’.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said that all government hospitals under the federal government have been demanding that sufficient budget be released in the upcoming fiscal year.

Kanti Children Hospital, which is a primary treatment center for children in the country, said that it has been knocking the doors of the Health Ministry and the Finance Ministry.

The hospital, which has stopped operation of some beds in the Intensive Care Unit due to manpower crunch, said that it has also been unable to pay its dues to suppliers of reagents and films used in X-ray machines for several months now.

“We told them that we cannot run the hospital without funds and we cannot ask patients to bring their own X-ray films and reagents when they come to the hospital for tests,” Dr Ganesh Rai, director at the hospital, said.

According to Rai, the hospital needs Rs 15 million to pay for x-ray films and reagents to the suppliers in the ongoing fiscal year itself.

Published: 17-05-2019 07:00

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