Union Budget 2023-24: Hospital CXOs weigh the gains and misses

Union Budget 2023 was a balancing act, and while some focus areas were addressed, hospital CXOs identify some need gaps which still exist 

Dr Azad Moopen, CMD, Aster DM Healthcare

The Union Budget 2023-24 has excellent focus on skill development and addresses one of the core challenges that healthcare industry is facing today – shortage of nursing staff, through the announcement to start 157 nursing colleges alongside existing medical colleges. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report published last year, India would require at least 4.2 million more trained nurses by 2024 to take care of its over 1.44 billion expected population. The current ratio of nurses and the population stands at a poor 1.7 nurses per 10,000 persons, which is much lower than the WHO recommendation of 4 nurses for 10,000 persons.

However, the overall impetus for the healthcare delivery sector is missing. We were hoping for an increase in budget allocation for the industry which is essential to fulfil the need gaps. The need to have more hospitals and healthcare facilities in rural and suburban areas to meet the rising demand remains untouched. Hope the government would put more focus on public- private partnerships (PPP) to address this.

We were also hoping for concessions for NRIs residing abroad like reduction on TDS for those who have a source of income in India and are required to pay taxes in the country they reside in, flight prices, health scheme for those who are returning to India to retire, among others. However, these remain untouched as well.

Reny Varghese, CAO, Zynova Shalby Hospitals

As expected, Budget 23-24 was a balanced effort to improve overall economic growth. Especially, the announcement of 157 nursing colleges is a welcome move. I believe, stress also should be given to impart quality training to the students passing out of these institutions.

However, no further announcement on the healthcare sector was a disappointment as we expected on few measures that could have been taken to further strengthen the healthcare sector while focusing on prevailing challenges.

However, the classic move of establishing dedicated multidisciplinary courses for medical devices with the support of existing institutions to ensure the availability of skilled manpower for futuristic medical technologies, high-end manufacturing and research gives hope to see technical advancements in the healthcare sector.

Bharath Balasubramaniam, President Operations, Sankara Eye Foundation India

Union Budget 2023 has certainly reaffirmed the government’s commitment to give utmost priority to the healthcare sector which is the need of the hour. The special impetus given on R&D was much needed to encourage more quality research and nurture innovation. This will also enhance the momentum of public private collaboration in healthcare. The focus on health infra in rural areas will certainly bring the entire network of digitisation under one umbrella.

However, for not-for-profit hospitals we were hoping for a better outcome from the budget in the form of taxation benefits and operating incentives. The decision on adding 157 new nursing colleges will improve the nurse-patient ratio.

Dr Anil Krishna, Chairman & Managing Director, Medicover Hospital

A bold budget that lays down a 25-year roadmap for India to become a truly successful economy. The announcement regarding the increase in healthcare-related expenditure with an increase of almost 10.91 per cent over the revised estimate of 2021-22 and 2022-23 is truly a massive move. It shows that the government has learned from the pandemic as they plan on spending Rs 39, 44,909 crore in 2022-23.

Furthermore, the actions made for collaborative public health management demonstrate that the government is finally looking at healthcare R&D through expanding facilities in select ICMR labs. These will be made available for research by academics from public and private medical colleges, as well as R&D teams from the private sector, in order to encourage joint research and innovation. All in all, it is a very well thought out budget that will have a positive impact on the digital and health infrastructure of the country.

Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO, Wadia Hospitals

The budget keeps us on track while providing universal access to health facilities. The rollout for screening for sickle cell anaemia of 7 crore people in the 0-40 years age group in affected tribal areas is a good move. The fact that this rare disease found a place in the budget is a testament to show that the government is on a mission to eradicate the disease and make access to quality healthcare services a reality for India.

It also makes me happy from the bottom of my heart to know that more than 220 crores of COVID-19 vaccines for 102 crore people were administered. This will in turn be invaluable in strengthening our fight against non-communicable diseases.

In addition to that the effort to increase skilled healthcare personnel by establishing 157 new nursing colleges in core locations gives hope for manpower growth in the healthcare sector of India. Overall, a very well thought out budget that has heard our voices and needs of the healthcare sector of the country.

Dr Alok Khullar, CEO, Gleneagles Global Health City, Chennai

We are delighted to note that the budget session was introduced with the announcement of increase in allocation for research in the healthcare sector including pharma, clinical research and PPPs in healthcare research.

The government’s initiatives to encourage R&D  in healthcare is a much-needed move. The collaborative set up of research and innovation centre and the facilities in select ICMR Labs made available for research by public and private medical college faculty and private sector is commendable.

Setting-up of more nursing colleges is a welcome move to generate adequate nursing workforce every year. Introduction of courses for medical devices will fill a significant gap in the industry.

Union Budget 2023-24
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