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Hospital heads react to Union Budget 2021

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Excerpts from comments from hospital heads as they look beyond the budget, concerned about on ground implementation

Dr Prathap C Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group

Must now look at the next crisis of NCDs                                                          

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 which 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 per cent of deaths and cause a $3.8 trillion 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 Alok Roy, Chair, FICCI, Health Services Committee and Chairman Medica Group of Hospitals

More integrated public health labs might be required in a country where the patient doctor ratio is abysmally poor

India Inc. and especially the healthcare industry which has been battling the demon of COVID-19 and its aftermath should consider this year’s budget a blessing. Quite rightly, the budget has focused on health and well-being, infrastructural reforms, development of human capital and minimum government and maximum governance.

The very fact that Government has put health as the first pillar shows that finally it is being considered as the prerequisite to ensure economic well-being of the country. Budget 21-22 seems realistic, constructive, and Hon’ble Finance Minister showed her commitment towards the healthcare sector, which needed a boost urgently.

The Aatmanirbhar Health Yojana in addition to the National Health Mission with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years is a welcome move, towards strengthening primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in the country, addressing the Preventive, Curative, and Wellbeing of the population. This will also intend to develop capacities of health care systems, develop institutions for detection and cure of new and emerging disease as the first step to boost rural health and keep country ready for emergency handling of pandemic situations.

Further, increasing access to pneumococcal vaccine to all states and budget outlay for health and welfare by the allocation this year of Rs 2,23,846 crore in the healthcare sector a rise by 137 per cent as compared to previous year will prove to be a major increase in the public health and pharmaceuticals sector. This will definitely strengthen the National Centre for Disease Control and make India future ready for any further health crises.

With the incorporation of 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban health and wellness centers, the budget rightly addresses the need to reach the last mile population. The decision to set up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3382 block public health units in 11 states along with critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions is creditable but more might be required in a country where the patient doctor ratio is abysmally poor.

Expansion of the Integrated Health Information Portal to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs is a step ahead towards digitalisation and is a positive move. India has done exceptionally well considering the density of populace in talking the pandemic. Setting aside Rs 35,000 crore and more if required for COVID-19 vaccination drive is laudable and shows that Government has prioritised the sector.

India unfortunately has the highest mortality rate for children, the decision to launch Mission Poshan 2.0 is a praiseworthy move to prevent over 50,000 child deaths annually.

The Rs 2,217 crore outlay for 42 urban centers to tackle air pollution, one of the deadliest pandemic which is obliterating mankind for years and acts as slow poisoning is also commendable. The resolution to set up integrated public health labs in each district about 3,382 block public health units in 11 states is noteworthy. Establishing critical care blocks in hospitals is essential from our learning from the recent pandemic and a right move by the Government.

Overall the proposals made in the Budget 21-22, would make quality healthcare accessible and affordable, besides standardising healthcare infrastructure across the country. We await the on ground implementation and operational details of the scheme now.

Preetha Reddy, President NATHEALTH and Executive Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals

This will strengthen preventive health and ensure frontline allied health worker skill building while increasing robust community surveillance of emerging infectious diseases. This announcement reinforces the commitment Government made earlier under the Ayushman Bharat programme to strengthen Public Health and community health through health and wellness centres.

Siddhartha Bhattacharya, Secretary General, NATHEALTH

India can emerge as a global centre of excellence for holistic healthcare

Using India’s deep experience in digital health, skilled manpower availability, clinical trials, manufacturing prowess and proven ability to deliver affordable excellence in healthcare, India can emerge as a global centre of excellence for holistic healthcare weaving the preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative spectrums. This can position healthcare as a top employment generating sector while bringing in valuable investments to fund the journey towards universal healthcare, reducing out of pocket investments.

Dr Ramakanta Panda, MD & Vice Chairman, Asian Heart Institute

The areas of focus will be preventive and curative healthcare as well as wellbeing

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s economic vaccine, her third budget was announced today. She has spoken of six pillars of development- health and wellbeing; physical, financial and capital infrastructure; inclusive development for aspirational India; reinvigorating human capital; innovation and R&D and minimum government and maximum governance. There is definitely a major emphasis on infrastructure. They have announced a total spend of around 2 trillion on healthcare and mega national highway projects which is always a boost for the economy.

The allocation to health in this budget has been increased substantially. The areas of focus will be preventive and curative healthcare as well as wellbeing. There is a 137 per cent increase in the allocation from the previous budget. Also Rs 35,000 crore has been budgeted for the COVID-19 vaccination expenditure in financial year 2021- 22.

Abhay Soi, CMD, Max Healthcare

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

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.

This special attention given to the healthcare sector, increasing the overall outlay to health and wellbeing by more than 135 per cent 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 standardise healthcare infrastructure across the country. Overall, the budget has been positive and refreshing in its scope and scale.

Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO, Wadia Hospitals

Government will need to continue to invest in development of human resources and infrastructure in years to come

The Budget 2021 does recognise the immediate needs for the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccine requirements for the nation. The focus on spending on COVID measures and the vaccines will bring the much needed stability to the public healthcare setup.  The increase in budget outlay for health and welfare by 137 per cent as compared to the previous year will boost the public health and pharmaceuticals sector.

The PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana to develop capacities of health care systems, develop institutions for detection and cure of new and emerging disease is the first step to boost rural health and keep country ready for emergency handling of pandemic situations. The Government will need to continue to invest in the development of human resources and infrastructure in the years to come.

The decision to include the Pneumococcal vaccine is also a welcome decision, along with the announcement of Mission Poshan to improve nutritional outcomes for children.

With the Budget 2021, the Government has taken a much-needed step to be moving in a direction of strengthening healthcare and promoting preventive healthcare. A robust monitoring and implementation plan in place will he see the initiatives achieve great success.

Dr Rahul Pandit, Director-Critical Care, Fortis Hospitals, Mumbai

Mission Poshan 2.0 will make nutrition management especially in mothers-to-be and children a priority

While designing this national blueprint for growth, the budget focuses on reducing mortality among infants and mothers. Mission Poshan 2.0 in congruence with other nutrition-related programmes will make nutrition management especially in mothers-to-be and children a priority. Importantly, proposal of 15 health emergency centers, strengthening of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and setting up of two mobile hospitals will help increase healthcare penetration and strengthen healthcare offering in the country. Overall, the government has taken a need-assessed approach health and these promising developments will definitely help us move us towards bringing back normalcy, and in building a healthier nation.

Dr BS Ajaikumar, Executive Chairman, HealthCare Global Enterprises

A cess similar to education cess could have been created in healthcare to bring uniformity through UHC

India is in dire need of Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC), which was not well articulated in the finance minister’s budget today. It is good to see that we are spending Rs 35,000 crore (over $4.79 billion) on the COVID-19 vaccine. The proposed budget of Rs 64,180 crore invested over six years to healthcare ($8.79 billion) is not substantial in my purview. The overall spending should have been much more because we started from a very low base post COVID-19.

The government spending only one and a half per cent of the GDP so far on healthcare is insufficient. While it is good to focus on preventive healthcare and wellness clinics, the government’s intention on cooperating with the private sector is still unclear. A cess similar to education cess could have been created in healthcare to bring uniformity through UHC. Overall, I am glad to see some spends directed towards healthcare, but it is not substantial, especially considering that we are battling the effects of COVID-19.

Dr Anjali Kaul, Medical Superintendent, Artemis Hospitals, Gurugram

PM ASBY will catapult efforts to build and modernise much needed India’s healthcare infrastructure

India is on its way to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Our mortality due to COVID-19 has been least as compared to other nations, thanks to our doctors and nurses. India is a frontrunner when it comes to mass vaccination and the production of vaccines against COVID-19. At this time, the central government’s financial support of Rs 35,000 crore for the COVID-19 vaccine will ensure that it reaches all.

In addition, the announcement of ‘PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana’ will also catapult efforts to build and modernise much needed India’s healthcare infrastructure, especially in rural areas. Another laudable decision is rolling out pneumococcal vaccines across the country, which will save more than 50,000 child deaths every year. Malnutrition remains a challenge for our country and the announcement to launch Mission Poshan 2.0 will ensure better nutrition for the vulnerable section of society. Overall, a well-meaning budget especially from the healthcare perspective.

Ajeenkya DY Patil, Chairman, Ajeenkya DY Patil Group

Investment will help our young population have accessible healthcare

In what has been a very difficult year for the global economy, it is encouraging to see the Union Budget focus on investing in public healthcare and vaccine programme to lead India out of the pandemic and drive economic recovery.

The finance minister’s budget provides a much needed boost to public healthcare, with Rs 2.2 lakh crores allocated, which is over 130 per cent higher than the last budget. This investment will help our young population have accessible healthcare, which as the pandemic has shown all over the world, is a key priority yet has seen sustained underinvestment for a numbers of years in most economies. Learning our lessons from COVID-19, strengthening this sector now will ensure we are better prepared for the future and are able to provide effective healthcare to everyone for the country’s well-being, whether that is preventative or remedial.

Harish Manian, CEO, MGM Healthcare

Detection of new and emerging diseases like COVID-19 have been given the right impetus

We are delighted to note that the budget session was introduced with the announcement of increase in the healthcare budget by 137 per cent. The government’s holistic approach to healthcare will help in creating awareness on preventive healthcare. post-pandemic Learning from the recent pandemic, the move to establish more number of critical care blocks in hospitals and strengthening of primary, secondary and tertiary care is a much need move by the Government.

The launch of Misision Poshan 2.0 is a commendable move to prevent over 50,000 child deaths annually. Coupled with initiatives like clean water, clean air and clean environment, it will act as a binding force to achieve a universal health coverage. Detection of new and emerging diseases like COVID-19 have been given the right impetus and will encourage all-round development and preparedness towards a progressive and safe future.

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