Iran Health Minister Quits Over Budget Cuts
EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani finally accepted Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi’s resignation as health minister on Thursday, after a week of media speculation on the reasons behind the outgoing official’s move, and named Saeed Namaki as the ministry’s caretaker.
Hashemi’s five years at the helm of Health Ministry was not without controversy. His team carried out the costly Health Reform Plan of 2014. Despite having the support of most parliamentarians, the plan faced hardline critics determined to scuttle it over the past few years.
The ministry’s massive debts and delays in payments to employees and pensioners as well as allegations that physicians are the main beneficiaries of the Health Reform Plan were much discussed among experts.
Hashemi strongly rejected these allegations while blaming late payments by the Plan and Budget Organization and lack of budget, so much so that he became particularly vocal in his criticism of next year’s budget allocation for the Health Ministry and Iranian Health Insurance Organization (Iran Health Insurance Organization's Salamat Insurance), according to Financial Truibune.
On Wednesday, Health Ministry Spokesman Iraj Harirchi said that as per the budget bill for the next year (March 2019-20), the ministry's budget has decreased by 0.8% compared with the current year’s budget.
Harirchi dismissed the report by the Plan and Budget Organization, suggesting that the health budget has quadrupled since the fiscal 2012-13 and accounted for 6.1% of the total budget.
"Currently, the share has risen to 6.7%. Health budget saw only a 0.7% growth between 2012-13 and 2018-19 despite the rising inflation,” he said.
Last year (March 2017-18), IHIO and its massive debts were transferred from the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare to the Health Ministry, IRNA reported.
Today, at the end of his term, the Health Reform Plan is perhaps the biggest legacy of Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi.
The Health Reform Plan was introduced to fulfill President Rouhani’s election campaign pledge of health care for all Iranians by 2018 under a nationwide health insurance program.
Hashemi introduced and carried out the plan in four phases: overhauling the treatment sector, reforming the health sector, increasing physicians’ medical fees and improving medical education.
In September, Deputy Health Minister Qasem Jan-Babaei said 45,000 hospital beds across the country have been refurbished during Hashemi's tenure.
“Up to 2.7 million square meters of hospital space have been rebuilt, standardized and optimized. The development of treatment infrastructures and equipment has been enhanced using the most modern medical equipment to bolster health care access and services," Jan-Babei said.
"Since 2014, the number of hospital beds has increased by 27,000 and 34 bases for providing emergency air transport services have been launched since then.”
Before the implementation of the Health Reform Plan, no effective measure was taken to reduce cesarean births. However, since May 2014, the promotion of natural childbirth was considered one of the health priorities.
As a first step toward reducing C-section, the Health Ministry declared natural delivery free of cost in all state-run hospitals.
The ministry announced that funding for hospitals with high rates of cesarean births would be reduced by 10%. It also prioritized the improvement of maternity wards to encourage women to opt for natural childbirth.
Under the Health Reform Plan, up to 10 million people have been insured by the Iranian Health Insurance Organization and people’s medical payments at state-run hospitals have reduced to below 10%.
Physician now stay for longer periods in underdeveloped areas, as 250 new clinics providing medical services at government rates have been established.
Seven million students have received dental treatment and about 2,000 new “health houses”, which are the basic unit of the rural health care structure, have been created since the launch of the Health Reform plan.