Budget 2021 makes Healthcare an Article of Faith in India

Stalwarts & Stakeholders of the Sector go gaga over downpour of allocation

New Delhi: It never rains but pours- the massive allocation for healthcare in the Union Budget 2021 has truly vindicated the saying. The govt has opened the floodgates of fund for the ever famished sector. Thanks to COVID 19, the government has shown it has learnt it the hard way that healthcare must be treated as the indispensable ‘pillar’ of the country.

Overwhelmed by the munificence of the Modi government, stalwarts and stakeholders across the healthcare spectrum have gone into ecstasy. It is more so because healthcare sector, so far sulking on the backburner, has grabbed the most exalted position in the reckoning of the policy makers. Union Finance Minister termed healthcare as the first of the six pillars the budget rested on. Health so swamped the discourse around the budget that commentators termed the whole budget as vaccine for the economy. Of course concerns about continuity and implementation were also expressed but they said in unison healthcare never had it so good.

Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group said, “The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented medical crisis and it underlined the importance of building a resilient healthcare infrastructure. Today, the Hon’ble Finance Minister’s said health was her first pillar and her announcements to develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems, greatly gladdened my heart. This ground-breaking focus on health will provide access to medical care for all in our country, fuel job creation and boost economic momentum.

India’s efforts in managing the pandemic have been exemplary – our frontline workers and scientists have been working tirelessly to save lives and develop indigenous vaccines. Now the allocation of Rs. 35,000 crores for COVID-19 vaccines and more if required, makes our glorious nation stand tall as a model for the world.

We must now look at the next crisis of Non Communicable Diseases, which will be responsible for 80% of deaths and cause a 3.8 trillion USD burden to the country by 2030.  It is important to focus on prevention, early detection and possible cure to protect Indian families from grief, financial burden and to help the GDP grow.  India having proven its clinical excellence, should now focus on clinical trials, research, innovation and technology. There is potential for India to become the largest global health technology center.  As an additional opportunity, India can generate employment and be a healthcare service provider for the world.”

Dr Naresh Trehan, Chaiman, Medanta group of hospitals, said he felt very good about the unprecedented importance given to healthcare and wellness in the budget. Talking to Medicare News, Dr Trehan said, ‘this budget and healthcare allocation in it is essentially a sure fire recipe for Healthy India. Its components are very good and instil a great hope of turnaround in the abysmally deficient system. Infrastructure for critical care is crucial and government’s focus on it is commendable. Atmanirbhar health yojana and allocation for it is ambitious and praise worthy.

Dr Trehan added, ‘Post COVID, we expected a windfall allocation and the government did not disappoint. The allocation far exceeded the expectation. The healthcare focus of the budget certainly underlines the government’s intention to give healthcare system a solid foundation. But execution of good intent is a must. It will prove a great game changer if implemented earnestly. The huge increase in the outlay by more than 135% over last year will come handy in turning around healthcare scenario.

Mr. Abhay Soi, Chairman and Managing Director, Max Healthcare says thus:

We welcome the thrust of Union Budget 2021 in reviving the economy. The focus on healthcare and the initiatives announced are a gigantic step in the interest our countrymen. Healthcare has been given the status it deserves. The announcement of the centrally funded scheme — Aatmanirbhar Health Yojana — with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years in addition to National Health Mission is a welcome step towards strengthening primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare. However, the manner in which this allocation will be made in the next five years will be critical. Also, some allocation of funds for the private healthcare sector would only boost it further since a healthy public-private partnership is the need of the hour today.

The special attention given to the healthcare sector and increasing the overall outlay to health and wellbeing by more than 135% over last year are a big step in the right direction. The allocation of 350 billion rupees towards COVID-19 vaccination is also a welcome step. Setting up of 15 Health Emergency Centres shows that the government wants to be future-ready in handling any further such crises situations. It is laudable that government has put healthcare at the forefront. This would not only make quality healthcare accessible and affordable it will also help standardize healthcare infrastructure across the country. Overall, the budget has been positive and refreshing in its scope and scale.

Mrs Upasana Arora, Director, Yashoda Super speciality Hospitals, Kaushambi Ghaziabad called the healthcare allocation unprecedented and asserted that it will give healthcare a great and needed boost. The sector which was on backburner so far is now most important. Thankfully, the government has finally recognised the imperativeness of health sector. The Modi government deserves all the praise. Increasing the overall outlay for healthcare and that too by more than 135% over last year certainly underlines government’s intent for a fit and healthy India.

Dr J Kumar , Group Medical Director, Paras Group  of Hospitals, said, ‘ The allocation for healthcare budget no doubt is very impressive and can go a long way in firming up the health infrastructure which is the need of the hour. COVID has shown that neglecting healthcare sector can wreak havoc on the country. The government has in turn shown that it understands the need for preparedness in healthcare. But it is very important that the government ensures that money allocated is properly utilised.’

Dr Vijay Agarwal, President, CAHO (Consortium of Accredited Healthcare Organiztion) was a little cautious in his reaction.  A veteran of healthcare, Dr Agarwal said, ‘There is no doubt the thrust to the healthcare in the budget sounds very good. But consistency and implementation is called for. One off enhancing of the allocation is not going to do any good if it does not become the norm. The govt will have to go hand in hand with private sector to realise the goal of healthcare for all. The govt talks of creating multiple AIIMS but where are specialists and other trained health workers to man them.

Dr Gaurav Aggarwal, a young and dynamic hospital administrator said, ‘ It is a positive budget for Healthcare sector as pre COVID the sector that was always neglected in  terms of GDP allocation is now getting  due recognition and  increased allocations in this year’s budget.

Improving Healthcare infrastructure is the need of the hour both in urban and rural areas which got exposed in COVID pandemic . Improving Health infrastructure, Creating wellness centres and developing institutes for Detection/Cure of newer Diseases is again a welcome and positive step for future preparedness to fight diseases and pandemics.

Significant allocation has also been provided for extensive COVID vaccination coverage; this will give India a definitive edge in Fight against COVID19

Mr Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD) has termed Union Budget encouraging and promising in the middle of pandemic.

Hailing the Union budget 2021, Mr. Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator of Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD) said “Sometimes a crisis helps to come out with bolder decisions. Major fillip to Healthcare through PM Atmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojna, PLI Scheme, Health Infra allocation, focus on new & emerging diseases & health labs will surely address major gaps.

Finally we may have something to help accelerate medical devices manufacturing as a Make in India enabler so that Indian National Healthcare security concerns are addressed – the inadequacy of which is being exposed in the crisis to address the coronavirus epidemic preparedness. We look forward to read the fine print.

“We had been hoping that this will be a Make in India push budget for an Atmanirbhar Bharat and though the FM has highlighted the need to support manufacturing sector to be part of global supply chain and need for it to grow on double digit sustained basis, we, The Indian Medical Device Industry are disappointed not to notice any changes in custom duty as done for other sectors and are very hopeful that the fine print of the Union Budget would have possibly acted upon our recommendations on a Predictable Tariff Policy for a Make in India push for Phased Manufacturing Plan for Components and Finished Medical Devices and allocations for Testing infrastructure as well as for MedTech Parks and Cluster developments. Supporting Policies are needed so that Indian Medical Devices Industry can make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for common masses, aim to place place India among the Top 5 Medical Devices manufacturing hubs worldwide and help end the 85% import dependence forced upon us and an ever increasing import bill of over Rs. 42000 Crore .” concluded Mr. Nath.

Dr. Swadeep Srivastava – Founder & CEO – HEAL Health Connect Solutions is very upbeat about impact the unprecedented allocation will bring about in the healthcare scenario in the country. Dr Srivastava said as follows.

“Owing to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the public health emergency created, a significant increase of 137% in the healthcare budget was very much expected. The pandemic has taught us that there are no choices other than large scale public investment in building primary health centres, hospitals at the district and grassroots levels. The allocation of ₹2.24 lakh crore for healthcare in the budget 2021-22 will be the hallmark as Health and well-being is one of the key pillars of this year’s budget proposal. Government’s three focus areas in the health segment as mentioned by the finance minister were preventive, curative and well-being, which is the need of the hour. The allocation of ₹35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines is another big step to curb the rate of infection. The proposal in the budget for PM Atma Nirbhar Swastha Bharat with an outlay of ₹ 64,180 crore over six years in addition to the Centre’s National Health Mission programme is another visionary step to build the capacity of primary, secondary and tertiary level health care facilities, to handle new emerging diseases. The proposal to launch an improvised Mission Poshan 2.0, and to merge some of the other nutrition-related programmes to give this initiative a boost considering malnutrition as one of the primary concerns in India because of which many health-related indicators are still not improving, is another welcome move”

Dr. Rohinton Dastur- Director Medical, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai applauded healthcare allocation in the budget. Dr Dastur said, ‘ In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s healthcare sector that has been badly affected, required some major boost. Amidst the huge expectations on that front, we must say that the government has delivered positively. The Atmanirbhar Health Yojana that was unveiled will have a financial allocation of ₹64,180 crore over six years as announced by the FM. This is a momentous achievement for preventive healthcare.’

Dr Dastur added, ‘There have also been announcements for the setting up of wellness centres across rural as well as urban parts of the country which is a welcome move. Another very important requirement that the pandemic brought to the fore was the provision for greater investment for preparedness against other health emergencies that may arise in the future, by strengthening diagnostic testing capacities and contact tracing mechanisms. The government has lived up to this expectation where integrated public health laboratories have been announced in various districts and public health units in 11 states.’

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