New Delhi [India], Jan. 30 : As the nation looks forward to the Union Budget 2017, there is a lot of anticipation especially for healthcare, which needs to be viewed as a national priority, given its strategic role in building the backbone of the country.
While it is true that budget allocation for the health sector has increased progressively from 0.9 percent of total GDP, to about 1.3 percent, we still have a long way to go.
While cancer, diabetes and cardiac diseases affect more and more people each year, seasonal ailments and communicable diseases continue to exert pressure on our already challenged resources.
According to CEO Fortis Healthcare, Bhavdeep Singh, the largest number of infant deaths, maternal deaths and tuberculosis cases in the world are in India.
it is also the oral cancer and diabetes capital of the world. "Our primary health centers and Government hospitals are severely short of staff and challenged in terms of beds, equipment and medicines.
On the other hand, private sector facilities, largely in the specialist and super specialist segment, continue to grow and are recognized as amongst the best in the world.
The budget needs to address the entire healthcare delivery spectrum with enhanced allocations for the treatment of chronic diseases such as cancers, heart diseases, malnutrition and diabetes," said Singh.
A preferred status to the sector must be accorded with matching tax incentives for capital expenditure and a ten-year tax holiday for new and existing hospitals undergoing an upgrade or expansion.
One strategy to tackle the shortage in healthcare infrastructure is to promote public private partnerships so that the access to quality and affordable healthcare increases for the people.
The availability of qualified medical personnel in adequate numbers remains a challenge. Feasible and realistic guidelines to involve private capital in the establishment of medical and nursing colleges to bridge this vital skill gap are therefore necessary.
In this age of tech-enabled healthcare, it is also important to link initiatives such as Digital India not only to allocate funds and monitor utilization but also to maintain health records and study health trends.
The much-awaited GST, unifying a plethora of taxes, must be implemented speedily. Continued exemption under the future GST scheme must be factored to galvanise significant investment for the creation of healthcare infrastructure.
With prices in check, assistance for hospital inputs like expensive medical equipment and consumables is needed so the feasibility of running medical services is safeguarded.