Union Budget focus on digitization, upgradation of anganwadis to enable access to healthcare: Experts

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Union Budget focus on digitization, upgradation of anganwadis are positive steps towards enabling access to healthcare, according to health experts.

“While it is good to see that the focus on digitization, allocation towards healthcare is not to the level anticipated. Coming out of the shadows of the pandemic, it is most important to allocate at least 3% of the budget to healthcare,” experts pinpoint.

Vishal Bali, Executive Chairman, Asia Healthcare Holdings, said, “Budget 2023 focuses on key pillars of Capex led growth, enablement of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and controlling fiscal deficit. If executed well, an increase in the capital outlay of Rs 7.5 Lacs crores can kick start the economic engine. The budget is silent on the increase in public expenditure on healthcare and the path to 2.5% of GDP spent on healthcare which is the much-needed reform path for this sector and enabler of healthcare access to India.”

“The focus on digital healthcare with the National Digital Health Ecosystem is a welcome move that will include digital registries of health professionals and facilities, a unique health identity, and help strengthen the foundation of universal access to health care facilities. However, reform in paramedical education for faster enablement of clinical / paraclinical talent is still not addressed. While the FM led Budget 21 made healthcare a central subject, Budget 22 does lack continuity of that vision,” he added.

Commenting on the Union Budget 2022, Dr Prathap C. Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group said, “This year the budget has truly put the spotlight on key issues facing the nation as it emerges from two years of the pandemic. The Union Budget 2022 moves to address the pressing needs with announcements that will act as an emollient not just for the economy but also the people. The budget with its digital push in education and skilling for all shows that it has its heart in the right place.

“During the pandemic, we saw an immense contribution of start-ups to innovation in healthcare and the extension of the tax benefits for another year should encourage more start-ups in the healthtech space to come up and invest in R&D especially in the field of AI powered smart wearables and predictive healthcare. This will in turn be invaluable in strengthening our fight against non-communicable diseases, which can otherwise derail the economic recovery by impacting our productive demographic,” Dr Reddy added.

Sudarshan Jain, Secretary General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) said, “This is India’s first post vaccination budget, and the policy consistency is maintained. The planned increase in capital expenditure is likely to boost economic growth and employment. There is a thrust on macro areas like digital, VC-ecosystem, ease of doing business and supportive measures for R&D and industry-academia collaboration with Pharma included in the sunrise sectors. The extension time limit for the commencement of business to claim benefits of concessional tax regime for manufacturing companies has been extended by a year to 31 March 2024. This will support the investment in pharma manufacturing. Details are being examined and the implementation will be key going forward.”

Dr. Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman and Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare while sharing his reaction to the announcements on the healthcare sector said, “Digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities under the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) are positive steps towards enabling access to healthcare for the wider population. Similarly, we are glad that mental health and the challenges put forward by the pandemic are being tackled at a national level with the launch of Tele-Mental Health Programme. Upgradation of 2 lakh Anganwadis with better facilities will further enable the primary healthcare system and much needed healthcare support in remote and rural areas.”

On Healthcare  Budget 2022, Meenakshi Singh, CEO and Co-Founder of Synapsica, India’s leading AI-based radiology reporting company  said, “Budget 2022 shows great promise in improving the healthcare sector in India. The steps taken to improve mental health through the National Tele Mental Health Programme are highly welcome. However, given the challenges that the pandemic has created, there’s an urgency to make healthcare products and services more affordable and accessible today. It’s a great move to put focus on digitization of healthcare through an open platform in order to achieve the same. It would have been good if the government reduced GST and the import duty on healthcare products and simplified FDI norms which can eventually help in making healthcare services and products more affordable for the masses.”

Dr. B S Ajaikumar, Executive Chairman, HealthCare Global Enterprises Limited said, “I was happy to note the government decided to launch a national Tele Mental Health Program. Of course, much will depend on the quality of its implementation inequitably providing counseling and care services to people across the length and breadth of the country.  Another welcome move is the decision to provide tax relief for the differently-abled and their dependents. Having said that, it was disappointing not to hear of any announcement on many critical areas facing the healthcare industry, like the urgent need to raise healthcare expenditure to at least around 2.5% of GDP.”

“Given the chronic issues facing healthcare in India, 1.8 percent falls short of addressing the lingering challenges on the ground. We also need universal health coverage to enforce uniformity of treatment through cross-subsidy, devoid of financial strain and debt traps for the economically challenged. Policy measures were required on many other key issues like the investments in tech-enabled systems using predictive genomics to fight the evolving mutations and likelihood of newer microorganisms. Other areas of concern are rationalization of the tax structure around life-saving drugs and emergency treatments, as also lowering of GST slabs and raising of tax deduction limits that are imperative to serve the larger cause of the insurance.” he added.

Sanjay Murdeshwar, Country President and Managing Director, Novartis India on the budget announcement said, “The Union Budget as laid out by FM Nirmala Sitharaman highlights the Government’s nuanced approach towards strengthening the country’s response to public health crises. We believe that the most effective way to provide access to healthcare delivery to a large footprint of our population is accelerated digital technology.”

“While the budget is in line to support the growth and recovery of the Indian economy while keeping the overall policy stability and fiscal discipline, we keenly anticipate an equal impetus on innovation and R&D. We all witnessed the acceleration in pharmaceutical innovation over the course of the pandemic. Policies attracting future investments in R&D and retaining world-class talent in the country is critical to make India Aatmanirbhar,” he added.

Dr. Kedar Tilwe, Consultant-Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital Mulund & Fortis Hiranandani Hospital said, “The COVID19 pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To address this issue the launch of the National Tele Mental Health Program, as a part of the Union Budget announcement, is a step in the right direction. This should be a mammoth progressive step towards normalizing the conversation around this topic and removing the stigma associated with it, in the long run.”

Nimith Agarwal, CEO, DoctCo while talking about the developments in the healthcare segment announced during the Union Budget 2022 said, “Supporting the healthtech startups, the National Digital Health Ecosystem will revolutionise the healthcare space, streamlining electronic medical records with the support of IoT driven platforms. It will also enable medical professionals with accurate and immediate availability of data, in times of emergencies. The initiatives proposed are steps in the right direction, putting Indian healthcare at par with Western countries.”

Sahil Dharia, Founder & CEO, Soothe Healthcare said, “We were expecting a healthcare focused budget with some specific interventions to the Make in India program. However, digitalization of mental health under Tele Mental Health program is a big thumbs up to the government for recognizing this need.”

Satish Kannan, Co-founder & CEO, MediBuddy, said, “Rising concerns relating to health have been worrisome amongst young individuals and adults alike in the country for quite a while. The pandemic has only further escalated and triggered these issues, further causing a rise in the same. We welcome the decision taken by the Finance Minister in the budget to set up a National Tele-Mental Health Programme, to support the mental health grievances of citizens across the country. It is a much-needed initiative that holds the potential to provide assistance and guidance to those who are suffering.”

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