In first meet, revamped Union Cabinet approves Rs 23,123 crore for boosting health infra, focus on child care

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Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Having burnt its fingers because of sluggish response during the initial stages of the Covid second wave, the first meeting of the recast Cabinet presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday sought to quickly address challenges from the anticipated third wave by rustling up a Rs 23,123 crore healthcare package.

The package aims to create paediatric units in all 736 districts because of the apprehension that the third wave could affect children. The Centre also intends to build synergy with state governments while implementing the package as against the policy of passing the buck to states during the second wave.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya said the Centre and the states will work as a team to implement the package between July and March, for which consultations will be held with each state government on ways to strengthen their medical infrastructure. The nine-month span is the upper limit for executing the plan, he assured.

Mandaviya stressed that the government will expedite work on addressing critical issues based on the lessons learnt from the second wave, like augmenting oxygen beds, adding ambulances and ensuring availability of critical medicines. 

The Rs 23,123 crore package is a follow up to the Rs 15,000 crore package provided by the Centre last year to deal with the first wave of the pandemic. Making it clear that the government does not want to take any chances with the third wave, Mandaviya said the spread and sweep of the package will include creation of field hospitals with 5,000 bed capacities, ICU and oxygen beds, buffer stock of critical medicines worth `1 crore in each district and setting up 10,000 litre oxygen plants.

Also, the Centre will work with states for uniformity in the manner in which trained human resources like resident doctors, interns, final year MBBS students and paramedics are roped in for emergency services for a fixed duration with standardised compensation. 

The plan includes augmenting 20,000 ICU beds in the public healthcare system, out of which 20% will be reserved for children. For rural, peri-urban and tribal areas, “creating pre-fabricated structures for adding additional beds at the existing CHCs, PHCs and SHCs (6-20 bedded units) and support would also be provided to establish bigger field hospitals (50-100 bedded units) depending on the needs at tier-II or Tier-III cities and district HQs” will be part of the package. It will also provide for adding 8,800 ambulances to the existing fleet in the public sector.

Outreach to restive farmers
The Union Cabinet also sought to address concerns of the agitating farmers by allowing inclusion of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Cooperatives (mandis) in the Rs 1 lakh crore interest subvention scheme unveiled in the Union Budget for creation of agriculture infrastructure 



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