As part of pre-budget expectations, healthcare industry has urged the Government to create and build infrastructural and linked integrated capabilities like telemedicine, home care and senior care towards access to quality and critical healthcare services equitably.
Besides this, industry experts have also urged that healthcare should be accorded priority status so that the sector can derive benefit from the GST transition and providers and healthcare service delivery institutions can avail loans at lower rates and extended tenure. It is also essential that the Government reduces duty and cess for critical care and life saving equipment and drugs to reduce costs for both providers and patients.
According to Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, Managing Director and CEO, Fortis Healthcare, “Healthcare should be accorded priority status so that the sector can derive benefit from the GST transition and providers and healthcare service delivery institutions can avail loans at lower rates and extended tenure. It is also essential that the Government reduces duty and cess for critical care and life saving equipment and drugs to reduce costs for both providers and patients.”
“Since the hospital sector is at the forefront as cases in India surge again, facilities in Tier 2-3 towns need to be equipped with diagnosis centers, ventilators, ICUS, critical care facilities and oxygen plants. We need greater investment in NCD programs as comorbidities are driving pandemic deaths and long COVID ailments. There is an urgent need to allocate a separate budget for a national campaign around preventive health, testing and screening as these are key to reduce the overall disease burden in India,” he added.
“The Government needs to also focus on building asset-light models powered by digital health to drive out-of-hospital care, remote monitoring and home care to reduce burden on hospitals. We need to strengthen the digital ecosystem to speed up adoption of new technologies to foster telemedicine for diagnosis and treatment. There needs to be more investment in advanced training and capacity building programs through affordable study tools and courses for doctors, nurses and healthcare workers in intensive and critical care, pulmonology, cardiology, oncology, emergency and trauma care,” Dr Raghuvanshi further added.
Echoing similar views, Dr Harsh Mahajan, President, NATHEALTH, “The pandemic has made us realise the need of providing hospitals in tier 2 and 3 towns with adequate infrastructure such as diagnostic centers, oxygen beds, ICUs and oxygen plants through increased budget outlay and greater investments. This will also help in creating employment opportunities and increase health system resilience. The need of the hour is to allocate funds and introduce targeted skilling and medical education programmes which can address the shortage of skilled healthcare manpower in the nation. The sector has not been able to derive the benefits of GST transition. In fact, the embedded taxes in the sector have increased in the post-GST regime compared to pre-GST scenario. Therefore, it is vital to rationalise GST to unlock the embedded credit which is trapped in the healthcare value chain.”
“Amidst the pandemic, the world has realized the potential of Indian Pharma sector. There is no doubt that the sector is poised for growth and will contribute significantly to make India a 5 trillion economy,” said V Ashok, Group, CFO, ACG, one of the leading pharma manufacturer further adding that as the sector is on its way recovering from the setback of the pandemic, greater investment across all the segments will encourage organisations to expand their capacities. The PLI scheme launched by the Government in 2021 proved to be beneficial for the sector and the Government should look at extending the production linked incentive (PLI) scheme to encourage further investments post Covid that would provide support to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
“Bringing in new investments, incentivizing and supporting existing organisations with forward-looking policies, deduction in duties and reducing GST will bring down the overall cost of healthcare services which will benefit a large section of people in the country and encourage organisations to invest more in R&D. Considering, India is the largest exporter of pharma products, the government may look at providing appropriate Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP) rates to pharma products exported by the industry to encourage drug exports,” Ashok suggested.
“While we still battle the mutations to the COVID-19, I believe that the upcoming budget might comprehensively cater to healthcare sector. Research and Development (R&D) in India and around the world has been ever developing solutions to address the existing issues and has been preparing for the anticipated ones. Technological intervention has increased digital and home-based healthcare ecosystem ensuring a reliable healthcare solution for the nation. However, training and medical infrastructure needs to be nurtured. The Centre’s current expenditure on healthcare is estimated at 1.2% of the GDP (as per National Health Accounts, 2016-17) and envisioned to touch 2.5% by 2025. And I believe that strong investments in healthcare can help buoy the nation’s economy,” Ameera Shah, Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare Limited said.
According to Anand. K, CEO, SRL Diagnostics, “It is high time the government looks at minimum quality standards for the industry and also appoint a nodal agency to standardise lab tests across the country. Standardising test codes by adopting LOINC Codes and homogenising lab report formats can help patients as well as clinicians.We have also witnessed some level of shortage of kits for COVID and COVID allied tests during the first two waves as we are dependent on imports and international logistics. Taking a cue from the CLIA standards in the US for lab developed tests, our regulatory bodies like Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) can open up the regulatory framework that will help laboratories build indigenous tests customised to the Indian population, encourage more research and foster innovation. This will reduce our dependence on imported kits for laboratory tests. India could become self-reliant in test kits in a few years with the right kind of support from the policymakers and the government.”
Anand further informed,“The government could also look at collaborating on public private partnerships. SRL has executed large projects in Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and these partnerships have greatly benefited the citizens of those states. Private healthcare providers with huge infrastructure and experience in delivering high quality service can truly help deliver quality diagnostics and wellness to the masses. Policymakers can customize health delivery to districts, cities and towns by harnessing the big data generated by laboratories. PPPs for such collaborations could be useful as labs can provide actionable health insights that can improve the health indicators of a particular state.”
“Government should look at instituting an official council that can help establish credibility and credentials of medical laboratory professionals and allied health professionals. In absence of any regulatory legal mechanism to oversee the educational and professional standards, educational institutions have been mushrooming unabatedly across the country,” Anand concluded.