The Punjab government is looking to partner with private parties to to run primary health centres and community health centres in urban and rural parts of the state. The state department of health and family welfare has released newspaper advertisements inviting expressions of interest for private parties to run “some of these health institutions in Public-Private Partnership” mode.

The selected party or parties will have to staff the health centres and run and maintain them for a fixed tenure. The notice does not mention the period of time for which the health facility will be handed over to the government.

Moreover, the notice says that the state government will fix prices for various services based on which the private party charge patients. The government proposes to meet difference between the private party’s expenditure and income with a one-time annual grant.

Health observers in the state are waiting for more details about the proposal such as how many health centres will the state allow private parties to run and the budget to reimburse private parties’ for the difference between their income and expenditure. The notice also raises the question of the prices for various services. Primary and community health centres are supposed cater to poor families and offer basic health treatments free of cost.

Medical associations have already criticised the move saying that the government intends to wash its hands off rural healthcare and that private players will fleece the poor, according to a report in The Tribune.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also criticised the move on social media.

However, on Monday evening, IANS tweeted that Punjab health minister Brahm Mohindra has said that there was no move to hand rural health centres over to private players.