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Health budget 'unclear' and 'under funded', say experts

Wednesday - February 1, 2017 10:04 pm , Category : BUDGET 2017

New Delhi: Even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 48,853 crore to the health sector, and assured of adding 5,000 post graduate medical seats every year, health experts and hospital owners on Wednesday called the health budget "unclear" and "under funded".

Although the experts hailed the announcement to set up All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Jharkhand and Gujarat, they said there is a need for the government to announce more for screening and preventive measures to check the growing tuberculosis (TB) burden.

"We were hopeful that health care would be accorded a national priority sector status," said Prathap C. Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group.

The budget allocation for the health sector for 2017-18 is Rs 48,853 crore, 23 per cent higher than last year, which stood at Rs 39,688 crore.

Stating that he is satisfied with the structural reforms in medical education, in particular the increase in the number of post graduate medical seats, Reddy said: "I do hope that the health policies will address the large unmet need for quality health care infrastructure and in particular the need to wage a war against non-communicable diseases which the health sector has been focusing on."

Jaitley in his budget speech announced 5,000 new post graduate medical seats every year in the medical colleges of India. He also said that the government will take steps to roll out Diplomate of National Budget (DNB) courses in big district hospitals.

Commenting on the budget, S.P. Yadav, Urologist and MD of Gurugram's Pushpanjali Hospital, said: "The budget 2017-18 did not discuss the health care sector in detail because of which there is no clarity as to what structural reforms the government proposes to bring in health care and medical practice."

The government also proposed to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules to ensure availability of drugs at reasonable prices and promote use of generic medicines.

Yadav said: "The prices of various drugs and health care devices are totally dependent on the formation of GST Bill. However, the government has taken a wise step by turning 1.5 lakh health sub centres to health wellness centres, which is necessary in view of the fact that health care in India will become expensive in days to come."

According to the government, it has announced an action plan to eliminate Kala-Azar and Filariasis by 2017, Leprosy by 2018 and Measles by 2020. Elimination of TB by 2025 is also targeted.

Rajit Mehta, MD and CEO, Max Health care, said the announcement of the goal of eradicating TB from India by 2025 is welcome.

"However, I am disappointed to note that the health care outlay in the budget hasn't been properly touched upon and it remains largely under-funded. There is no announcement regarding granting health care industry the status of infrastructure industry, a long standing demand of the sector," Mehta said.

"There is still a greater need to invest in screening and preventive measures for addressing the growing TB burden. Non-Communicable Diseases that account for 53 per cent of the disease burden should have been prioritised," said Varun Khanna, Chairman of AdvaMed India Working Group. AdvaMed is a medical device company.

Anjan Bose, Secretary General, NATHEALTH -- a forum for advocating better healthcare -- said: "The budget clearly focuses on improving health care access for the less privileged and on 'preventive and wellness', both of which are very encouraging.

"The target of transforming 1.5 lakh health sub-centres into health wellness centres is in line with the need of the hour for the Indian citizens."-IANS
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