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Here's How The Industry Reacts On Healthcare Budget

Industry experts laud the programmes announced in the health, pharma, and medical services sector in the budget

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The union budget for 2023 has allocated a whopping Rs 88,956 crore for medical expenses. This is a 2.71 per cent increase of Rs 2,350 crore from Rs 86,606 crore in the 23rd fiscal year.

This year, the Center has increased its allocation to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to Rs 89,155 crore, an increase of Rs 2,954.35 or 3.43 per cent from its fiscal year 2023 allocation of Rs 86,200.65. Of the ministry's total budget, Rs 86,175 crore will go to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare while the Ministry of Health Research will receive Rs 2,980 crore.

Dr Prathap C Reddy, Founder Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group said, “Caring for the wellbeing of citizens is integral to nation building, India stands tall for putting people first, and this Union Budget, the first in the Amrit Kaal, resonates with this ethos. India’s economic growth is amongst the highest in the world and a defining edge is the youthful demography. Therefore, the impetus on skilling is noteworthy."

Dr Sanjeev Singh, Medical Director, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad said, “The budget the finance minister presented today is very good and futuristic. The outlay for health sector has increased this year and stands at Rs 88,000 crore. The outlay for expenditure has increased in almost all areas — Ministry of Health, Ayushman Bharat, Department of Health Research, and for Tuberculosis and HIV programmes."

Dr Gauri Agarwal, Founder and Director, Seeds of Innocense said, "From creating the groundwork for widened healthcare infrastructure to providing tech-aided solutions, the union budget for 2023-24 has intelligently provided smart public health management. We welcome the Finance Minister’s decision to emphasise the increased private investment in the healthcare sector because it will improve the functioning of the healthcare sector and boost public and private partnerships in the healthcare sector."

Establishment Of Nursing Schools

Declaring the Indian government's achievement of 220 core covid-19 vaccine for 102 crore persons, Sitharaman announced establishment of 157 new nursing schools on the same site as the existing 157 medical schools established since 2014. Well, experts have lauded this announcement.

Dr BM Makkar, Senior Diabetologist, President, National RSSDI said, "Setting up various nursing colleges across the country is a much-needed move. This will help prepare the nation against an outbreak like covid-19 so that we have adequately trained medical professionals."

Reddy said, "It is heartening that 157 new nursing colleges will be established as it will contribute to improving the nurse-patient ratio, a step in the right direction towards Universal Health Coverage. It is also a right step towards India building a global workforce, to serve the world."

Rajeev Taneja, founder and CEO, Global Care said, "In terms of accelerating the growth of healthcare, the announcement of setting up 157 new nursing colleges in co-locations with the existing 157 medical colleges already established since 2014 will truly help garner better facilities for medical value tourism. This investment in creating a skilled medical support staff will ensure that overseas patients also get the best care possible."

Strengthening Pharma Industry

In the budget it was announced, a new pharmaceutical research program will be developed and industry will be encouraged to invest in research. Some ICMR laboratory facilities will be provided for research by public and private health institutions.

The finance minister said, facilities in the select ICMR labs will be made available for research by public and private medical college faculty and private sector R&D teams for encouraging collaborative research and innovation.

Sanjeev Jain, Managing Director, Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals said, "We appreciate that the union budget 2023 has considered the industry 's request for incentives to boost R&D investments by introducing a new program for pharmaceutical research. We were expecting separate allocations for formulation and APIs. We await to see further details on this announcement. This is important to build the Indian pharmaceutical industry to evolve and shine on the world stage. The collaboration of ICMR labs with various private sector R&D teams in addition to public and private medical colleges is again a welcome move as it will ensure that quality research can be carried out nationwide."

While Taneja said, "Facilities in select ICMR labs which will be made available for research by public and private medical college faculty and private sector R&D teams will encourage collaborative research and innovation to help bring in state-of-the-art medical facilities to the country. Dedicated multidisciplinary courses for medical devices will be supported in existing institutes to will ensure the availability of skilled manpower for futuristic medical technologies, high-end manufacturing, and research which will propel medical value tourism to new heights ensuring facilities that are at par with international standards."

Dr NK Singh, Executive Committee, National RSSDI said, "The announcement for extending the lab facilities of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to public and private medical colleges in addition to private sector R&D teams will pace up quality research in the country. This move will pave the way for research around diabetes and aid in finding better treatment for this chronic disease. Institutes that do not have a sound infrastructure and resources to carry out research independently can now rely on the world-class lab facilities of ICMR. The boost given to pharmaceutical research will ensure that now pharmaceutical companies can develop innovative molecules in-house. This will lead to the generation of better drugs for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer."

Mission To Eliminate Sickle Cell Anemia

Sitharaman announced a mission to eliminate sickle cell anemia by 2047. The finance minister said the program would involve global sensitisation and screening for 7 million people aged 0-40 in affected tribal areas. She added, the consultation sessions are through the collaborative efforts of central ministries and state governments.

Dr Aswathy S, Head, Community Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Kochi said, "The sickle cell anaemia elimination mission is an excellent initiative for the welfare of the tribals. Counselling and immediate care and genetic studies will go a long way in improving the life of those affected. However, an integrated sociocultural approach where consanguineous marriages are discouraged is necessary. The possibility of sickle cell traits coming together to give birth to 25 per cent babies with sickle cell disease has to be borne in mind."

Dr NK Singh said, "It is times like covid-19 that have taught us that we need to be prepared for any pandemic that may befall us. We have positively received the announcement for the set up of various nursing colleges across the nation. This will lead to the generation of trained medical professionals, something that we desperately needed when the covid-19 wave hit the country. India has been majorly affected by sickle cell anemia, particularly our tribal population. We welcome the initiative that the government has taken to eradicate this genetic disease by 2047."

Boosting Artificial Intelligence

Three centers of artificial intelligence (AI) excellence will be established at leading educational institutions, leading industry companies will collaborate to conduct interdisciplinary research, develop cutting-edge applications and scalable solutions to problems in the areas of health, agriculture and sustainability systems. Sitharaman said that, this will galvanise an effective AI ecosystem and nurture quality human resources in the field.

Dr Sanjeev Singh said, "The budget is futuristic as it has opened the path for creating Centres of Excellences —three institutions dedicated to Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Robotics and 3D printing. We know that complex surgical procedures require the intervention of these three specialities and will be helpful for healthcare."

Behram Khodaiji, CEO, Ruby Hall Clinic said, “The focus on digitisation with result in adaption of tools using tech with will enhance healthcare outcomes specially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The medical fraternity and the people of India would have benefited if there was allocation on manufacturing high-end medical devices or exemption of customs duty on import of high-end equipment."

Ravinder Goyal, Co-founder and Managing Director, Erekrut HR Automation Solutions said, "The establishment of "Centers of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence" will help employees in the longer term by creating opportunities for them to upskill and reskill in the field of AI. The development of AI applications in agriculture, health, and sustainable cities has the potential to create new jobs and industries, further increasing employment opportunities. Furthermore, the emphasis on developing "scalable problem solutions" will likely lead to the creation of products and services that can improve the quality of life and address social and environmental issues. This will benefit not only the employees, but also the wider society."

Bringing in various programmes and developments in the health, pharma, and medical services sector, the industry experts have mostly supported the budget that is expected to bring a fiscal year of transition.

Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Founder and Director, Manasthali Wellness said, "We welcome the announcements made by the government in budget 2023 particularly for the health sector. The government has taken several initiatives to strengthen the health sector in this year's budget compared to last year. From planning a mission to eliminate sickle cell anaemia by 2047 to creating a new program for pharmaceutical research as well as providing facilities in select ICMR labs, all will be made available for research by public and private medical facilities, but some announcements to boost the area of mental health are still missing."

Dr Deepak Birewar, Chairman and MD, Inventys Research Company said, "The budget 2023 announcement brings forth a bright opportunity for the innovative minds in India. The government’s initiative to promote pharmaceutical innovation in the country by leveraging centres of excellence is encouraging, and will provide impetus for public-private partnerships to emerge and deliver high-quality products for India and the world. We applaud the government’s efforts to promote education, medical research, and are enthralled by its decision to increase the capital investment outlay for a consecutive third year, which is guaranteed to attract private investments, helping the pharmaceutical and ancillary industries achieve true growth."

Aniruddha Sen, Co-Founder, Kenko Health said, "Designating healthcare as a national priority sector and categorising it similarly to agriculture will give banks more freedom to lend to private healthcare organisations for longer terms and at lower interest rates. This, combined with tax incentives, will encourage the private sector to take on a more prominent role in strengthening healthcare access across India. We would like to say that while we appreciate the reforms introduced in this year's budget, it would have been encouraging to have the government's measures aligned more closely with our expectations. The healthcare sector requires significant investment and attention to ensure the well-being of our citizens. We are positive that the government will take this into consideration in the near future."