Centre plans labs in every block

The Centre will set up public laboratories at every block to increase testing capacity at the grass-roots, as part of its plans to ramp up India’s health infrastructure to address health emergencies.

The proposal for strengthening health infrastructure comes amid the coronavirus outbreak, with India’s case count nearing the 100,000 mark.

There are 7,096 blocks across 736 districts, according to the government. “Public expenditure on health will be increased. All districts will have infectious diseases blocks. There will be integrated public health labs in all districts at the block level. Health and wellness centres in urban and rural areas will also be increased,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Sunday.

India’s spending on healthcare, at 1.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), is one of the lowest among all major economies. The National Health Policy 2017 had suggested that the health budget must be increased to 2.5% of GDP by 2025. However, a detailed roadmap for this is still in the works.

“While the healthcare package has not been defined, we do believe that expanding health and wellness centres, infectious disease blocks and public laboratories will require significant outlay and the private sector looks forward to collaborating with the government in this mission to bring healthcare to the doorsteps of all,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, Confederation of Indian Industry.

The plan will be implemented by the national digital health mission.

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