Fresh impetus to the healthcare sector was missing in the Union Budget 2022-23 presented in the Parliament on Tuesday, healthcare sector players and experts said.
D.V.S. Soma Raju, Executive Director, SLG Hospital, feels that while the existing healthcare machinery in India stood up to the challenge posed by Covid-19 pandemic and did its best to keep a possible disaster under check, this sector needed a fresh impetus to enhance and strengthen the healthcare net across the country.
"The Finance Minister, in her Union Budget speech, announced levy of 'Health & Education cess' for the year 2022-23 but did not specify where this additional money would be utilised. I strongly feel the government must directly invest or encourage more private investments in the healthcare sector to ensure semi-urban and rural locations receive quality healthcare facilities," he said.
He was also of the view that the government must encourage digital health avenues to spread operations across the length and breadth of the country.
Dr Krishna Reddy Nallamalla President, InOrder and South Asia Regional Director, ACCESS Health International, said: "A 10 per cent increase in allocation to health is not in line with the health policy aspiration of public spending of 2.5 per cent of GDP. Increased allocation to other social sectors that have a bearing on health status of people is a saving grace."
Dr Gayatri Kamineni, COO, Kamineni Hospitals, is of the view that the Union Budget is a progressive one that holds the potential to tackle the economic challenges faced by the country in the post-Covid period.
"It is heartening to see Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's focus on sectors like health, including digital health ecosystem and mental health and wellbeing," she said.
She hailed the announcement of the National Digital Health Ecosystem. "The open platform that will consist of digital registries of health providers, health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities, will go a long way in providing quality and on-demand healthcare to the country's people."
"Realising the tremendous pressure piled on the minds of the people of India due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the FM's announcement of the National Tele Mental Health programme couldn't have come at a more opportune time," Kamineni added.
Vishal Bali, Executive Chairman, Asia Healthcare Holdings, pointed out that the Budget is silent on the increase in public expenditure on healthcare and the path to 2.5 per cent of GDP spent on healthcare which is the much-needed reform path for this sector and enablement of healthcare access to India.
"However, the focus on digital healthcare with the National Digital Health Ecosystem is a welcome move that will include digital registries of health professionals and facilities, a unique health identity, and help strengthen the foundation of universal access to health care facilities. The announcement of a national telemedicine-led mental health program with a network of 23 telemental health centers, with Nimhans serving as the nodal centres is also a step in the right direction," he said.
"However, reform in paramedical education for faster enablement of clinical/paraclinical talent is still not addressed. While the FM led Budget 21 made healthcare a central subject, Budget 22 does lack continuity of that vision," he added.