NHM staff will get pending wages before March 7: Veena George after talks with Finance Min

Health Minister Veena George. Photo: Manorama
Health Minister Veena George. Photo: Manorama

Alappuzha: Health Minister Veena George, on Wednesday, assured the nearly 13,000 staff working under the National Health Mission (NHM) scheme that their pending wages would be cleared by the state government before March 7, despite the Centre refusing funds. Veena had promised the same when the NHM Employees Federation called on her at her office the other day.

“The minister held a meeting with Finance Minister K N Balagopal, who promised to release the requisite funds this week itself. The government is also striving hard to source funds and provide the salary of the coming months without any delay,” sources said

A crisis has engulfed the health sector in Kerala with the National Health Mission getting paralysed due to the Centre's refusal to release its commitment of a whopping Rs 826.03 crore.

The crisis has gone to the extent that NHM staff who have not been paid their salary for January resorted to a token strike at the district centres and Central Government offices across the state earlier this month and threatened to launch an indefinite stir if their dues were not disbursed immediately.

“The Centre is discriminating against the state and refuses to allocate funds for the NHM scheme. However, the Kerala Government won’t disown the employees working for the state,” Veena George told the leaders.

The NHM programme is implemented using 60 per cent of funds granted by the Central Government and 40 per cent comes out of the state's pocket. The projects for the financial year 2023-24 were submitted on time. The Centre gave the nod and also approved Rs 826.03 crore for the same. However, not a single penny has been released so far, landing all NHM activities in crisis. Many projects under NHM, even those for infants, are stalled because of a lack of funds.

The major issue in releasing the funds is the Central Government directive to brand the healthcare institutions in the state like Primary Health Centres, Community Health Centres, Family Health Centres, taluk and district hospitals. The state, which assiduously built the healthcare system over the years with pucca buildings and other infrastructure, equipment, and facilities, in return suggested co-branding by the State and Centre.

“We completed 99 per cent of co-branding and uploaded the details on the website, which was also approved by the Centre. Later, they reversed their stand and as the State Health Minister said, the Centre wanted to re-brand them as ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir’. However, Kerala stuck to the co-branding proposal, resulting in the present impasse,” an NHM official said.

“The Central Government is obstructing the implementation of NHM by putting forth new conditions like renaming health centres, etc. It is quite unfortunate and the co-branding suggestion of the state is just and appropriate, which should be accepted and the stalemate over fund disbursal broken,” said CITU state secretary U P Joseph, who is leading the protests of the NHM Employees Federation and Asha Workers Federation.

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