Laying emphasis on improving healthcare in the country, she said that more hospitals would be empanelled under the PM Jan Aushadhi Yojna, especially in tier 2 and 3 cities. She also announced the Government’s decision to expand Mission Indradhanush to cover 12 diseases, and include 5 new vaccines under it.
The Fit India movement also found a mention in the longest-ever Budget speech.
The 60-year-old, who appeared tired by the end and cut short her poetry-laden speech, gave a special mention to the use of technology in the healthcare sector, saying that artificial intelligence and machine learning would be deployed to help detect and prevent diseases.
Sitharaman also announced a move to strengthen and expand the ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ movement, with an aim to eradicate the disease by 2025.
Talking about skill development in the healthcare sector, she said, “There is a shortage of qualified medical doctors – both general practitioners and specialists; it is proposed to attach a medical college to a district hospital in PPP mode. In first phase, in those aspirational districts where there are no empanelled hospitals, details of the scheme to be worked out soon.”
The NDA 2.0’s second Budget also proposed a health cess on import of medical equipment, with the proceeds from the cess being used to create infrastructure for health services.
“To achieve the twin objectives of giving impetus to the domestic industry and also to generate resource for health services, I propose to impose a nominal health cess, by way of a duty of customs, on the imports of medical equipment keeping in view that these goods are now being made significantly in India,” Sitharaman said.
Savitha Kuttan, CEO, Omnicuris, welcomed the finance minister’s decision to increase the budgetary allocation for education and upskilling in the medical sector, calling it a ‘long-expected move’.
“At present, the doctor-patient ratio is 1:1445 against the WHO recommended 1:1000 and the nurse-patient ratio is 1:483 against the ideal 1:4. In accordance with the intention to foster more public-private partnerships, the government has already allowed medical colleges to be set up and managed as a joint venture between companies and trusts. Although the National Medical Commission was established to address the skill gap in the health sector, we expect more clarity from the government on its plan to increase graduate and postgraduate seats in medical education,” the healthcare boss said.
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Budget Highs And Lows
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget in Parliament today. From allocating Rs 85,000 crore for the empowerment of Scheduled Caste and OBCs to Rs 53,700 for Scheduled Tribes, Sitharaman’s Budget speech grabbed headlines and how. While the custom duty has been lifted on items such as raw sugar, agro-animal based products, tuna bait, skimmed milk, certain alcoholic beverages, soya fibre and soya protein, the same has been imposed on shoes, tablewear and kitchenwear. We take a look at the items that are set to get cheaper and dearer after Budget 2020.
She, however, added that in order to ensure that the central funds are put to quick use, the government must ease the rules and regulations to help set up more medical institutes, which will help produce more healthcare professionals and fill the gap.
Kuttan said that the plan to set up hospitals via public-private partnerships under the support of the Viability Gap Funding Scheme of 2004 is a positive move.
“The VGF scheme has benefited regional airport developments and metro rail projects across the country, and there is no reason it will not work in the health sector if the stakeholders play their cards right. The private sector has long been looking for incentives to increase health investment in underserved areas, and this move is clearly an invitation from the government seeking their involvement,” she elaborated.
The socio-medical enterprise boss also lauded the decision to use the taxes levied on medical equipment to boost the health infrastructure.
Babit Kumar, Radiologist at Motherland Hospital in Noida, joined Kuttan in praising the FM for addressing the shortage of qualified doctors, calling it “a major concern for the healthcare segment.” He also called the setting up new hospitals with tax generated from the sale of medical devices a welcome move.
CEO of Dr. Lal PathLabs Om Manchanda said the allocation of Rs 69,000 crore towards the sector was one of the highlights of the Budget. He also lauded Sitharaman’s initiative to use tech for healthcare, saying, “Designing a preventive regime to combat various diseases using Machine learning & AI will be a progressive and imperative step towards the sustainable development of the healthcare sector.”
Another player in the healthcare sector, Ameve Sharma, founder of Kapiva, said, “The capital push through PM Jan Arogya Yojana will create awareness on health and wellness which will have a positive rub-off on healthcare products and service providers.”
Shalabh Paliwal, Chief Financial Officer, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre noted that this Budget focused more on healthcare than previous one.
“The Government, in the last two fiscal years, has increased the budget for healthcare sector from Rs 54000 crore to Rs 69000 crore, with an aim to provide greater support to schemes like Ayushman Bharat, PM Jan Arogya Yojana Mission and Indradhanush.”
He went on to add that the move to levy cess on import of medical equipment will help in boosting local industries.
KR Raghunath, CMO, Jindal Naturecure Institute, said that the healthcare proposals in the Budget will “definitely take us a step closer to achieving an egalitarian healthcare system and reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases.”
He, however, clarified that it will not be possible to achieve universal health coverage with traditional approaches alone.
“We also need to harness the preventive health benefits of alternative medicine systems to tackle the rising NCD surge. Even the WHO has talked about the need to promote standardised and regulated practice of alternative medicine in conjunction with conventional medicine to tackle chronic conditions.”
Adding, “It is high time the Government seeks the expertise of the stakeholders in the industry and comes to a decision on the regulatory policies and standardisation protocols that will promote judicious use of alternative medicine.”
Chander Shekhar Sibal, Senior Vice President at Fujifilm India, said that it was encouraging to see that the Government was delivering on its promise of excellence in healthcare.
“The Government’s impetus on boosting domestic manufacturing of medical devices will reinforce the commitment towards raising awareness for early detection in India. Apart from this, the announcement to boost Artificial Intelligence is a great step to strengthen the usage of technology in the field of healthcare. We believe that the Government has put forward a progressive Budget with a strong vision to take India’s social, economic and overall well-being to greater heights.”
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Hello, Madam FM
Nirmala Sitharaman’s 160-minute-long Budget speech, peppered with poetry, began with the FM paying tribute to the massive mandate that the NDA achieved under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi.Stating that the Government was committed to present a Budget that would help boost consumer’s incomes and enhance their purchasing power, she laid down the three planks of Budget 2020: Aspirational India, economic development, and creating a caring society that provides ease of living for every citizen.Here’s what business leaders had to say about Sitharaman’s second Budget
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