Healthcare industry gives 'mixed response', lauds proposal for new nursing colleges

By Avinash Prabhakar

New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS): Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the Union Budget 2023-24 in Parliament on Wednesday announced a major push for the healthcare sector. She announced the establishment of 157 new nursing colleges in co-location with the existing 157 medical colleges, established since 2014, in her budget address.

Sitharaman also announced the launch of a Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission which will entail awareness creation and universal screening of 7 crore people in the age group of 0-40 years in the affected tribal areas.

However, the healthcare industry has given a mixed response to the budget. "While the budget on the whole is positive, I wish healthcare was given a greater push. Promoting health insurance strongly, greater SOPs to private health care would have helped," said Dr Nandakumar Jairam, Independent Healthcare Consultant & Former Chairman, NABH.

"The impact of the budget on the healthcare industry, particularly the healthcare delivery side, doesn't appear to be substantial. Whilst some impact-producing features like sickle cell anaemia, attaching nursing colleges to medical colleges, and a focus on AI are very welcome, the opportunity for transformation seems to have been missed", said Dr Narottam Puri, Advisor, FICCI Health Services & Advisor.

Terming the budget good, Dr Ajay Swaroop, Chairman, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said, "We are very pleased that this year allocation of funds for health care has been increased. Starting of 157 nursing colleges will help in shortening gap in students for nursing care". He added that some incentive should have also been given to charitable hospitals, some focus on funding and incentive for doing telemedicine and research.

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a common blood disorder with over 20 million patients living with SCD in India posing a considerable health burden, said Dr Archna Dhawan Bajaj, Delhi based fertility expert, adding that the mission to eliminate sickle cell anaemia by 2047 with entailing awareness creation and universal screening of 7 crore people is a most welcome step. There is a lack of awareness towards SCD resulting in high disease burden in various parts of our country. Spreading awareness about this disabling disease is the need of the hour for the country, Dr Bajaj said.

The budget has various encouraging initiatives that will help in the growth of the economy. The government has taken well-defined initiatives towards the health and wellness sector which is the need of the hour. We laud the proposal for a multidisciplinary course for medical devices for skilled manpower as it will ensure the availability of skilled manpower for futuristic medical technologies and high-end manufacturing and research, said Deepshikha Sharma, CEO, Sharp Sight.

Meanwhile, lauding the government for announcing establishing 157 new nursing colleges, Probal Ghosal, Executive Chairman of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, said that it will fill the dearth of skilled healthcare workers especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The government has also proposed a multidisciplinary course for medical devices for skilled manpower. However, he added, some areas like GST rationalization in healthcare, gap funding on infrastructure in building hospitals in Tier 2 cities, should also have been addressed in the budget.

"We appreciate the tone of the budget that focuses on training of teachers and nurses. We hope that the government prioritises mental health and at least 20 percent of the health budget should go towards mental health. We urge that those diagnosed with mental illnesses may be given a lifetime corpus for treatment to allow them to function in society and get treatment", Priya Vandrevala of Vandrevala Foundation that caters to mental health.



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