Budget 2021: Healthcare industry welcomes increased allocation, focus on infrastructure
The 137 percent increase in healthcare budget allocation this year, especially the COVID-19 specific funds, has been warmly welcomed by healthcare players. Here is what the industry has to say about the provisions and proposals.
The COVID-19 outbreak pushed the limits of the healthcare industry in India. With the pandemic pointing out gaps in the sector, it led to the creation of new opportunities to solve the problems. In a bid to help the country repair the damage caused by the viral pandemic, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced health and well-being to be one of the six pillars of Union Budget 2021.
While presenting the Union Budget 2021 on Monday, the FM proposed allocation of Rs 2,83,846 lakh crore for the healthcare and wellness sector. This also includes Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines, which are being rolled out across the country since January 2021.
Sitharaman also announced the launch of Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore, which will be used for developing primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare over a period of six years. The funds will be utilised for developing healthcare systems and develop institutions for the detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.
“The investment in health infrastructure in Budget 2021 has increased substantially. Three areas, including preventive health, curative health, and well-being will be strengthened,” the Finance Minister said.
What the experts have to say?
The healthcare sector has welcomed the much-needed increase in budget allocation in the sector this year.
“The healthcare budget has been increased to Rs 2.3 lakh crore, which is a much-needed step given how the Indian healthcare infrastructure has been reeling under the pandemic impact and the expenditure on healthcare has so far been grossly inadequate. We have seen last year how the integration of private and public sector healthcare operations and collaborative model of healthcare delivery led to rapid scaling of the efforts. We are keenly looking at furthering such collaborations going forward,” says Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO of home healthcare service provider Portea Medical.
Speaking to YourStory, Shyatto Raha, Founder and CEO of MyHealthcare, said that the focus needs to be on building a healthcare ecosystem that will be effective in delivering quality primary care to all citizens of India.
He explains the launching of Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana shows the government’s focus on developing and strengthening the healthcare segment.
Believing the announcements to be pragmatic and positive, Harshit Jain, MD, CEO and Founder of Doceree, says, the proposals would make quality healthcare accessible and affordable, besides standardising healthcare infrastructure across the country.
Apart from the launch of Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also proposed setting up 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centers while presenting the budget.
“By laying special emphasis on preventive and curative healthcare and the proposed establishment of 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centers in the country, the government has reassured its vision of affordable and quality health coverage for all,” says Ram N Kumar, Founder and CEO, New Delhi-based healthtech startup NirogStreet.
Apart from this, Meena also believes that one of the key healthcare announcements include the intent to shift the focus from curative to preventive healthcare. She explains that proposals for launching new integrated labs, primary health centers, hospitals, and other medical facilities will be helpful in strengthening the healthcare sector in India.
However, she adds that various digital technology-driven services such as home healthcare and telemedicine also need adequate support and focus under the National Digital Health Mission.
While the Budget allocations and proposals for the healthcare sector are promising, the sector will be able to move forward and develop only when they get implemented. After the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, it is now most important for India to strengthen its healthcare system for providing better services in the future.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon, said that while the budgetary allocation to the healthcare sector is commendable, she is also concerned about the slow pace of the vaccine deployment in India. She blames this partly on a “standoff” between the private sector and public sector.
“I like the messaging and the signals, but I would be happy only if we implement (the budget proposals). The intent is very good but we fall short on execution,” she says.
Speaking along similar lines, Nilesh Aggarwal, Director and CEO of Medtalks.in, says, while the government is making the “right noises” regarding the budget allocation and the measures taken for the healthcare sector, he believes it is important to see how the integration will take place.
“To prepare the existing healthcare workforce and meet the human resources needed to man the proposed healthcare facilities, it is important to give significant attention to training, re-skilling, and knowledge upgrading of healthcare professionals through digital mediums. We are looking forward to the government taking the highly successful public-private collaboration to cater to this need,” he adds.
Apart from this, the sector players are also hoping the funds are deployed for taking preventative health measures such as screening programmes for heart disease, diabetes, and glaucoma, as well as other national health awareness campaigns.
“Particular importance should be given to regular comprehensive screening of children’s health in schools and government organised health fairs,” says Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director of ENTOD International Pharmaceutical.
Overall, the players have welcomed the government’s intent to develop the healthcare sector, but believe that proper implementation of the proposed initiatives and allocated funds will be very important for strengthening the sector.
For YourStory's multimedia coverage of Budget 2021, visit YourStory's Budget 2021 page or budget.yourstory.com.
Edited by Megha Reddy