Healthcare professionals expressed disappointment with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden Budget, which, while raising the annual outlay by almost ₹10,000 crore, made no direct mention of the crucial sector.
The proposed overall allocation for health has risen to ₹64,999 crore this year, from a revised estimate of ₹55,949 crore last year.
“Through the budget, there has been no direct reference to the health sector at a time when India has been plagued by child deaths and stressed health infrastructure,” remarked Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, a member of the Resident Doctors’ Association, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). “There is an urgent need to address the multiple issues that are plaguing the system,’’ he added.
“The government has to revisit the unfinished agenda such as ‘priority sector’ status to the health sector to ensure smooth credit flow, mandatory universal health insurance, tax incentives for capacity building, creation of a dedicated infrastructure and innovation fund,” said H. Sudarshan Ballal, president, NATHEALTH, an apex healthcare industry body.
The Association of Indian Manufacturers of Medical Devices (AiMeD) too expressed anguish over the ‘continued neglect’ of domestic medical devices manufacturers by the government.
“We are shell shocked to see that no action has been taken by the government to stem the tsunami of imports... that is crushing the Indian manufactures,” commented Rajiv Nath of AiMED.
Lamenting the lack of any fresh commitments to healthcare, Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare, however, saw a silver lining in the announcement relating to support for research. “One of the most notable announcements in the budget has been the pledge to establish a National Research Foundation to boost research in all areas,” said Dr. Narang.
Swati Deshpande, Director (Operations) at Datar Cancer Genetics Limited, said while the move to set up a National Research Foundation was certainly a positive, the government had “completely ignored” the bio-medical sector, which has the potential to be a global research hub for fields like genetic research, bio-informatics and artificial intelligence.
The budgetary proposal to provide sustained support to the start-up sector, however, won plaudits.
“This year promises to be a healthy growth for the sector,” asserted Vivek Tiwari, founder and CEO of Medikabazar, an e-commerce site for medical devices and hospital supplies.
“The Central government is planning to set up more than 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres by 2022 under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana and plans to provide healthcare cover of ₹5 lakh to around 10.74 crore families across the country,” he noted.