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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 April 2024

Health cash hits Punjab name wall

Centre accuses state govt of naming jointly funded health and wellness centres as 'Aam Aadmi Clinics'

G.S. Mudur New Delhi Published 22.02.23, 03:12 AM
Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann

Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann

The Union health ministry has threatened to stop the flow of central health funds to Punjab, accusing the Aam Aadmi Party-led state of naming jointly funded health and wellness centres as “Aam Aadmi Clinics” and breaching guidelines on the buildings’ colours and other façade features.

The ministry said Punjab had “vitiated the spirit” and “defaulted on its commitment” to the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre, a scheme launched in April 2018 to provide diagnostic, clinical and preventive health services through a nationwide network of 150,000 clinics.

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The clinics — funded under the National Health Mission with 60 per cent from the Centre and 40 per cent from states — are also expected to adhere to guidelines in an 80-page document titled “Façade Branding for Health and Wellness Centres”.

A senior health ministry official, in a letter to the Punjab health department, has said the state has “violated provisions” of the Centre-state pact on health and wellness centres under the NHM, “therefore releases to the state under NHM do not appear feasible”.

The ministry has accused Punjab of violating the pact by naming the health and wellness centres “Aam Aadmi Clinics”, a brand launched as Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics by the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi in 2015.

The ministry has said Punjab has not followed the façade branding guidelines that require the clinics’ outer walls to be painted in yellow metal colour coded 7920, doors and windows painted in ethnic brown colour coded 8589 and use only the prescribed graphic designs.

The ministry said an amount of Rs 1,114 crore under the NHM had been approved for Punjab in the 60:40 ratio, of which Rs 438 crore had been released to the state. The state had also been provided with approvals for Rs Rs 410 crore and Rs 145 crore under other heads.

The ministry’s February 6 note to the state principal secretary for health, V.K. Meena, has set a February 28 deadline for the state to ensure the correct façade branding of urban and rural health and wellness centres. It had also written to Punjab on November 30, 2022, and January 25, 2023. Punjab health minister Balbir Singh — a former eye surgeon — said the state was implementing a “model healthcare system” that should be emulated elsewhere.

“We’re providing a healthcare system with assured presence of doctors, referral systems in place, and quality healthcare,” Singh told The Telegraph.

“We’re focussing on quality of healthcare services, the substance of healthcare — they’re objecting to building colours.”

Community medicine experts said the Centre’s demand on the state was an old argument based on the idea that if the Centre is funding a particular health scheme, the state should follow all the prescribed guidelines, including those involving nomenclature.

“But the health and wellness centres are jointly funded with 40 per cent from the state — and it could also be argued, in support of joint ownership of the scheme, that states should be given some flexibility,” said T. Sundararaman, former executive director of the National Health Resource Systems Centre, a unit of the Union health ministry.

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