While Monday’s Union budget is said to have given a big boost to India’s health sector, on Wednesday, all eyes will be on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the country’s richest municipal body, to see if it makes adequate provisions in its budget to augment the city’s health infrastructure.
Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal will present the budget on Wednesday.
To strengthen local-level health infrastructure, which has played a crucial role in the pandemic, the opposition leaders in the BMC have demanded increased allocation to the health department. The BMC, on an average, allocates 10-12 per cent of its budget to the public health department every year.
BMC officials, however, said this year, there will be no steep rise in the budget allocation to the health department and their priority will be to focus on completing existing infrastructure projects that have been on hold for 7-8 months owing to the pandemic.
“Every year, the budget allocation is huge but we are unable to exhaust the full budget. This year, we were able to utilise a lot of funds for Covid-19 treatment. Our plan for the upcoming financial year is to finish pending infrastructure projects,” said BMC Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani.
An analysis of the BMC’s budget allocation to the public health department and actual spend from 2014-15 to 2018-19 shows that although the civic body projects involve towering budget estimates every year, what is actually used is below 50 per cent of the estimates. Financial year 2017-18 was an exception in this regard.
For instance, while the total allocation to the capital expenditure, which is infrastructure creation, operation and its maintenance of the public health sector in the city for five years amount to Rs 3714.05 crore, the amount that the BMC actually spent over that period was 33 per cent at Rs 1,237 crore.
On an average, for every year, the amount spent translates to Rs 247 crore, while the yearly allocation is Rs 742 crore.
For every year over the past five years, the BMC’s capital expenditure estimates for the health department have been way off the mark, although they have been tempered down slightly in 2017- 18 when the overall budget was slashed for the first time.
Then Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta in the budget speech had said the civic body would make provision for only those projects that have clearances and whose tenders are ready to be floated.
Following the “realistic budget” allocation, the expenditure by the civic body had improved slightly, and the BMC is still way behind when it comes to using a large chunk of the budget to improve facilities. In the past five years, only in 2017-18, the actual money spent by the health department was 52 per cent of the actual allocation at Rs 293.99 crore. The BMC in 2017-18 had allocated Rs 555.7 crore for the capital expenditure of the health department, a drop from the inflated allocation of Rs 900.8 crore.
According to officials, considering it to be an election year, neither new taxes would be imposed, nor would there be any increase in the existing taxes.
Two news hospitals, one in Chandivali Sangarsh Nagar and a super specialty hospital in Bhandup, are likely to be announced to upgrade infrastructure in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs.
Long due renovation work will continue in MT Agrawal Hospital, Bandra Bhabha and Govandi Shatabdi Hospital. Project plans for the next two years have been chalked out for Bhagwati Hospital in Borivali, Siddharth Hospital in Goregaon and Govandi Shatabdi Hospital.
“Due to the pandemic, the work on these hospitals had to be slowed down. We are stressing faster completion of the target this year,” said Dr Pradeep Jadhav, in-charge of peripheral hospitals in BMC.
For Sion Hospital, Rs 700-crore proposal has been submitted to the BMC to revamp the entire hospital in a phase-wise manner. “This will be a long-term redevelopment project. We have proposed to revamp the hospital with one building at a time. Departments of one building will be shifted to another during the renovation so that routine work is not affected,” said Dr RN Bharmal, medical director of education and medical colleges in the BMC.
In KEM, a new building has been proposed, work is expected to begin this year. In Nair Hospital, work will be undertaken to create a comprehensive cancer centre, a building with new lecture rooms, canteens as per the Medical Council of India’s guideline, and a new RMO quarter.
In 2020-21, the BMC allocated Rs 4,260.34 crore on health, 12.7 per cent of the total budget. The corporation spends Rs 2,840 per capita on health, much higher than the state at Rs 1,266 per capita.
The BMC has spent Rs 1,533 crore on Covid-19 treatment so far. Kakani said the expenditure has been made using contingency funds, but the expenses will be eventually transferred to the health budget.