Sunday January 26, 2020

Resolving healthcare issues in India a crucial need: Experts


Sonipat: In a two-day conference here on universal health coverage, the experts suggested that India urgently needs to resolve issues pertaining to its healthcare sector in the light of the gross neglect the sector has witnessed over the years.

Participating in the conference, experts on Sunday surmised that the country’s healthcare sector has suffered monumental neglect due to politics steering the policy making decisions even as the crumbling healthcare system failed to deliver quality services to people.

“The 12th Five Year Plan said it will be the health plan but soon after funds dried up,” said T Sundararaman, dean, School of Health Systems Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences at the international conference on ‘Delivering On the Promise of Universal Health Coverage in India: Policy Options and Challenges’.

Speaking at a session to discuss the current bills and legislation aiming at fulfilling the promise of universal health coverage, Sundararaman said the fund crunch for the healthcare sector started much before the present government.

He highlighted some of the key issues adversely affecting the growth of healthcare sector including “re-positioning the role of states, contradictory assessment of the National Rural Health Mission, contradictions in human resource policy and a gap between expectations and reality in private sector engagement”.

Anjali Chikersal, senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research, highlighted some of the key human resource problems faced by the healthcare sector.

“The first thing we need is the availability of data,” she said, adding India has a critical shortage of manpower in the sector “but we also have imbalances”.

She said the World Health Organisation recommends one doctor per 1,000 people but India has a doctor to population ratio of 1: 1,428. “74 percent doctors are in urban areas where they cater to only 31 percent of the population.”

Chikersal said the National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH) Bill, which sought to regulate health education by bringing it under a single umbrella council, had to be abandoned due to stiff opposition from different bodies.

Ravinder Singh Duggal, country coordinator, International Budget Partnership, discussed the prospects for the ‘National Health Rights Bill’ and said: “We are producing an adequate number of doctors but we do not capitalise on that.”

He said India needs to have a consolidated health bill as “our approach to health is very fragmented”.

Speaking on the way forward, Richard Cash, senior lecturer on global health, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, said India needs to “learn from others, especially from those who share experiences”.

“Don’t wait for the perfect moment to arrive,” he said.

Ajith M Sharan, secretary, Ministry of AYUSH, said: “We need to look at different kind of paradigm” with more focus on paramedics, given the challenges faced by the healthcare sector in India.

“There are 700,000 trained AYUSH practitioners in India today and we need to integrate them officially into the system,” he said, adding, “but there is a fear that many of the AYUSH doctors won’t be able to impart quality services after a bridge course. (IANS)

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FICCI Recommends Government to Grant Priority Status to Healthcare Sector in Upcoming Budget

On taxes, the Ficci official said that reduction in corporate tax will boost the mood of the corporate sector and support the economy

ficci, healthcare
File:Assistant Secretary Rivkin Meets With Chairman of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)'s Intellectual Property Rights Committee Sabharwal in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has recommended to the government to accord priority status to the healthcare sector in the upcoming budget. Sangita Reddy, Senior Vice President, Ficci, said on Thursday that the industry is looking forward to a clear and proactive policy in the upcoming budget including priority status to the health sector.

“Healthcare must receive a priority status so that it enables easier access to funding,” said Reddy, who is also the Joint MD, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise. In a video address on Ficci’s Youtube channel, Reddy noted that India has done a “commendable job towards universal health coverage by undertaking Ayushman Bharat”.

However, she added that private sector participation will be needed to scale up in areas like capability, number of beds, manpower and training. “The industry is also seeking support to get investment towards the new age healthcare and in that, data sharing, digitalisation, electronic health record, personal health records – all are very important buzz points,” she added.

healthcare, ficci
“Healthcare must receive a priority status so that it enables easier access to funding,” said Reddy, who is also the Joint MD, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise. Pixabay

Recommending steps to support startups, Reddy said that angel tax must be removed as it helps in spurring the entrepreneurial spirit, creating and nurturing innovation, and creating startups which can be the unicorns of tomorrow.

Highlighting the importance of the environment and water, she said that some important budget announcements for water conservation and preservation were expected. On taxes, the Ficci official said that reduction in corporate tax will boost the mood of the corporate sector and support the economy.

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Also, an upward revision in the individual income tax slabs will further boost consumption and enhance GDP growth. Reddy also said that there are a lot of opportunities for the banking sector. “The banking sector needs further look whether in terms of promoting greater liquidity or innovation in terms of the enablement of more hands having access to low cost funding,” she said.

Reddy stressed on strengthening the education sector. “The education sector and the follow through of what happens to human resources is another very important area which I am sure the budget will focus on,” she said. (IANS)