Post the COVID-19 pandemic, health and well-being topped the list in the six-pillared Union Budget. The increase of 137 per cent in budgetary allocations to the healthcare sector was appreciated by all and sundry. The budget has allocated a sizeable sum of Rs 2.23 lakh crore (including COVID-19 vaccination expenditure currently budgeted at Rs 35,000 crore) to healthcare. This also includes the Indian Railway hospitals which earlier used be a part of the then separate Union Railway budget.
Setting up of critical care hospital blocks and health labs would help in making healthcare facilities available to the public at large and also make the sector attractive from an investment perspective due to generation of local demand, especially at the rural sector. Further, the support in terms of rural and urban health and wellness centers, and integrated public health labs will increase the awareness of healthcare in public leading to healthy India.
Manish Trivedi, hospital director of Manipal Hospital Goa says, “Special focus on healthcare in current budget has seen an overall outlay of 2.25 trillion that is a whopping 135 per cent increase over previous fiscal. The budget has attempted to address the overall healthcare continuum by including drinking water, nutrition and pollution control that add to overall wellbeing. All of last year COVID-19 has disrupted the access of non-COVID-19 patients to the healthcare delivery institute, there is greater need to be future ready for such pandemics and increased allocation will help. Vaccination allocation of 350 billion is a great step.”
Trivedi further added, “Goa’s DDSSY is by far the most successful scheme and higher allocation in this scheme will help benefit the population of Goa. Additionally higher allocation to the technical, vocational training in healthcare will be a benefit to the sector. Goa can be promoted as a medical tourism destination and this can also be an area of growth for the sector.”
However, experts in healthcare sector feel that it is healthy to observe that the government’s focus on building healthcare infrastructure, certain incentives on the direct and indirect tax front such as provision of special tax holidays, increased R&D deduction and rationalising GST rates on critical, life-saving drugs and health care services would have not only provided a much needed boost but also served as a reward to the healthcare sector for its vital contribution to the economy.
They further added that an impetus to R&D was expected in the current budget which stimulates the private sector engagement into R&D and aims at public, private sector investments into R&D at levels of 1:1. While there is an increase in budget allocation to the Department of Health Research, certain explicit incentives would have encouraged private sector engagements in R&D, aiming at establishing India’s image as an innovation hub.
“It is time to focus on villages at this time of COVID-19, especially those who are the most neglected and had no means to take advantage of the various health schemes floated by our government. The government has an opportunity to look at the last mile connectivity which would help the poorest of the poor and Central government schemes can be utilised by pitching for the schemes correctly and timely by our State government so that the money allocated does not return due to either non compliance or non seeking projects. One must make an application for those Central governments schemes and make a handful of that for the benefit of Goan citizens,” said Dr Eugenie de Silva, Senior Consultant in Gynecology in Goa.
Director at Victor Hospital, Varun Albuquerque said, “Goa already has a very proactive administration in the healthcare scenario and we have scene and with the up-gradation of the primary healthcare systems with the construction of the new super-specialty block and other new projects. With this new budgetary allocation at the Centre, the State has the opportunity to tap it into the more funds to help Goa develop the healthcare scenario further to develop its infrastructure. Health is a matter of primary concern and the State government must try to tap in available Central government resource as much as they can.”
Founder and director of Sevarat Healthcare and Nursing Pvt Ltd Rohini Gonsalves believes that it is important for the State of Goa to utilise the funds allocated towards healthcare to build reliable health infrastructure across the State.
“We are geographically a small State and we can become a role model to other states by providing more primary health centers. Equipping each PHC with facilities for dental, physiotherapy and psychological, psychiatric treatment will make such facilities more accessible and affordable especially for senior citizens. Building fully equipped ESI Hospitals in each industrial estate is another need in Goa. We have one of the best hospitals – Goa Medical College (GMC). Scaling up the GMC, Azilo and Hospicio is very critical now. Our critical care 108 is very quick to respond. Employing well qualified staff to handle emergencies would help save more lives. Also, setting up generic medicine stores at each Panchayat would be another big step to make medicines affordable to the common man,” added Gonsalves.