Budget 2023: Increased Medical Education Will Strengthen Health Infrastructure, Experts Say

Union Budget 2023: The Healthcare Budget 2023 focused on four areas, namely medical and nursing colleges, sickle-cell anaemia elimination mission, medical research, pharma innovation, and multidisciplinary courses for medical devices. Several experts expected this year’s budget to focus on establishing medical colleges and medical research, and indeed, the healthcare budget includes these aspects.

Experts believe that this year’s budget allocation for health will help strengthen the basic health infrastructure, give a boost to medical research, and cover the shortage of skilled healthcare workforce through the establishment of new medical colleges.

Here is what experts have to say about this year’s budget allocation in the health sector.

Experts’ opinion on the establishment of medical and nursing colleges

“Budget will help in strengthening the basic health infrastructure. New nursing colleges will help cover the shortage of skilled healthcare workforce. A nursing course providing training in diabetes can be of great help in combating the epidemic of diabetes. I come from RSSDI (Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India) which is a research focused organisation. The access  to ICMR labs and other R&D facilities can give a boost to research in India,” Dr. Sanjay Agarwal, Senior Diabetologist, Hon. Secretary, National RSSDI, told ABP Live.

“The establishment of one hundred and fifty-seven new nursing colleges in co-location with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014 will help address the availability of skilled manpower in the country,” K.R. Raghunath, Senior Spokesperson, Jindal Naturecure Institute, Bangalore, told ABP Live.

“We had been really looking forward to the budget announcement. I think that one thing that has really cheered the healthcare providers is the announcement of the medical colleges to be co-located with nursing colleges, so, all the 157 medical colleges that have been opened since 2014 will now have nursing colleges co-located with them. It is a very good step because I think the government has listened to us, as we have been flagging this over the last three years that we are now looking to produce more doctors but where are the nurses and paramedics to support them. So, the policy of producing more nurses as well as a dedicated education policy for medical devices, so that we have more people coming up and producing and working on medical devices, is a very good initiative by the Government,” Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, told ABP Live.

“The Union Budget 2023 offers a timely relief to the healthcare sector, having addressed several of its pain areas across the healthcare continuum from education to healthcare delivery. Further, the areas it chose for its allocations reveal how optimally futuristic it is,” Pranav Bajaj, Co-Founder, Medulance Healthcare, said.

“While the lack of trained paramedical staff plague the healthcare delivery system, the budget has paved the way for the creation of additional paramedical institutions in the public sector. At one stroke, as many as 157 new nursing colleges will be established in the existing 157 medical colleges. As a multiplier effect, this can bolster private investment in paramedical education and many more players will get into the fray. Medulance too is coming up with the paramedical institution,” he added.

“The mission to eliminate Sickle Cell Anaemia by 2047 will further strengthen the healthcare status of India and the decision to make facilities in select ICMR Labs available for research by public and private medical college faculty and private sector R&D teams will encourage collaborative research and innovation,” Ragunathan said.

Experts’ opinion on funding

“While the amount of funding to the healthcare industry hasn’t been specified, the focus of the government on the well-being and health of the people is certainly applaudable,” Ragunathan added.

“We are a big country and whatever we spend on health will always appear less. However, we are hopeful that the government will try to increase the health expenditure and bridge the huge gap in what is provided and what is required,” Dr Agarwal said.

What specifics of the health sector do experts want the government to spend more money on?

Experts believe that more money should be spent on non-communicable diseases and on accelerating R&D efforts to integrate AYUSH techniques with contemporary medicine.

“I would like to see more being spent on non communicable diseases as they are now the biggest killer of mankind,” Dr Agarwal said.

“Accelerating R&D efforts to integrate AYUSH techniques with contemporary medicine is necessary. These methods may be helpful for patients with a variety of communicable and non-communicable disorders who also need palliative care. It is essential to put a lot of effort into promoting such a combined approach to treatment and more initiative should be taken toward other alternative treatments like Naturopathy, yoga, and meditation,” Ragunathan said.Experts’ opinion on what more should have been announced

Experts said that they would have liked to see any programme addressing the welfare of healthcare professionals, and that more announcements should have been made on the achievements of the AYUSH Ministry.

“Any program addressing the welfare of healthcare professionals is something I would have liked to see personally,” Dr Agarwal said.

“More should have been announced with regard to the work being done by the Ayush Ministry. The importance of preserving one’s health and well-being through practices like yoga, meditation, sound healing, and other relaxation techniques has been highlighted by the pandemic and these should have received increased focus in the Union Budget 2023-24,” Ragunathan said.

“In the Union Budget 2023-24, the government has kept a wide approach to accelerate the growth and well-being of people. However, the government should have also focused on preventive healthcare for non-communicable diseases as it plays the most important role in keeping India healthy,” Vikram Thaploo, CEO, Apollo Telehealth, told ABP Live.

What experts think is missing from the budget

Dr Bajaj hopes that when people get access to the detailed documents, they will find some clarity on the GST slab for the healthcare providers’ sector.

“The things that are missing from the announcement, and I hope will find some mention in the detailed documents when we get access to them, are the clarity on the GST slab for the healthcare providers’ sector. We have been insisting that we should move from a GST-exempt sector to zero percent slab GST because we are not able to take any input credits for any GST and that is a very big burden for the industry. Also, gap funding encourages the private sector to step up healthcare facilities in underserved areas, and small towns,” Dr Bajaj said.

“I think that is something we were looking forward to. Also, the promise of increasing the health budget to a minimum of 2.5% of GDP is something that we have been looking forward to here. We do not have any clarity on it yet, but we are looking forward to accessing the detailed document,” Dr Bajaj added.

Artificial intelligence and healthcare

Experts believe that artificial intelligence will strengthen India’s digital capability.

“A much-needed step by the government is the establishment of 100 new labs for developing apps employing 5G services to realise new prospects in healthcare. Additionally, the establishment of three centres of excellence for artificial intelligence will undoubtedly strengthen India’s digital capability and enable ‘Make AI for India’ and ‘Make AI work for India’. In order to guarantee the availability of trained labour for cutting-edge medical technology, high-end manufacturing and research, the finance minister said that specialised multidisciplinary courses for medical devices will be supported in existing institutions. All these essential moves will certainly help improve the clinical care output and set up a strong foundation for accelerated growth,” Thaploo said.

Need for a digital health incentive programme

Experts believe that there is a need to make healthcare more economical, and to introduce a digital health incentive programme.

“The healthcare industry has utilised telemedicine to a large extent. There is a need to unleash the private entrepreneurial and digital power by incentivising the development, roll-out, and adoption of digital public goods, especially in light of the recent announcement by the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) of a digital health incentive programme to increase ABDM uptake. Making healthcare more economical, equitable, and accessible to a greater population would be made possible by this combined strategy to provide care through digital and physical modes,” Thaploo said.

Telemedicine services should be promoted, expert says

Thaploo said the execution of the national digital health mission and promotion of telemedicine services, among others.

“A robust healthcare ecosystem will be further developed in India with the execution of the national digital health mission, promotion of telemedicine services and increased funding for home-based care. These are some of the areas we were expecting the government to focus on. A strong framework from a regulatory standpoint to deal with cybercrimes is also the need of the hour,” Thaploo said.

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