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    Mumbai: Today, the interim budget for the fiscal year was announced by the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitaraman. The highlights for the healthcare sector being the healthcare cover under the Ayushman Bharat scheme being extended to all ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and helpers, encouraging vaccination for girls in the age group of 9-14 years for the prevention of cervical cancer, the newly designed U-WIN Platform for managing immunisation and intensified efforts of Mission Indradhanush will be rolled out expeditiously throughout the country, plans to set up more medical colleges by utilising the existing hospital infrastructure under various departments, Poshan 2.0 to be expedited for improved nutrition delivery, early childhood care and development, consolidation of various schemes under maternal and child healthcare under one comprehensive programme to ensure synergy in implementation and upgradation of Anganwadi Centres under Saksham Anganwadi.

    As the current budget that has been announced is an interim one, no major announcements were made for the health sector. Health industry stalwarts shared their views on the announcement and highlighted some aspects that could have been addressed. The leaders also anticipate that more announcements could be made in July concerning the lifesciences sector.

    Budget unveiled roadmap for addressing long-term capacity building by investing in healthcare infrastructure

    Viren Shetty, Executive Vice Chairman, Narayana Health, said, “Recognising the need for providing universal healthcare (UHC), the interim Union Budget 2024-25 extended the Ayushman Bharat scheme to cover nearly over three million ASHAs and Anganwadi workers. In a noteworthy move, the budget also unveiled a roadmap for addressing long-term capacity building by investing in healthcare infrastructure, and converting existing hospitals into medical and nursing colleges. This will go a long way towards addressing the skill shortage in the healthcare industry and create millions of jobs. These initiatives align with our commitment to provide comprehensive health coverage across all our hospitals.”

    Mental health, telemedicine and robotic surgeries can be included in the July budget

    Dr Sangita Reddy, JMD, Apollo Hospitals Group, shared, “The 2024 budget highlighted the need for investments in the healthcare sector. The focus is on preventive care, women’s health, infrastructure expansion, and child development. In order to protect women’s health, the budget promotes cervical cancer prevention by encouraging vaccination for girls aged 9-14. The budget proposes establishing more medical colleges by utilising existing hospital infrastructure to address the increasing demand for medical professionals. It also plans to establish new nursing colleges alongside recently established medical colleges. There are plans outlined to upgrade Anganwadi centers and implement a comprehensive maternal and child healthcare programme in recognition of the significance of early childhood development. To ensure wider coverage of immunisation, the budget introduces the U-Win platform to improve immunisation programme management and intensifies Mission Indradhanush with the goal of achieving higher immunisation rates across the country. We also need some measures to address challenges such as shortage of healthcare facilities in rural areas, and awareness toward NCDs that lead to life-threatening complications and deaths. Apart from that, some important points such as mental health, telemedicine and robotic surgeries that are minimally invasive and give successful outcomes can be included in the July budget. Overall, this budget is satisfying and can help to strengthen the healthcare system of the country especially considering it is an interim budget.”80 per cent procurement is in private sector, this needs to be incentivised

    Rahul Cordeiro, Chief Financial Officer, GE HealthCare South Asia, said, “The Union Budget FY 2023-24 promising an increased outlay of Rs 1 lakh crore for sunrise sectors like MedTech is encouraging for the industry as we strengthen our march towards Atmanirbhar Bharat, envisioning to become the global manufacturing and MedTech hub. The increased vision for encouraging collaboration in R&D, multidisciplinary courses for MedTech in existing institutions, high-end manufacturing and research is a welcome move. In addition, the move to set up more medical colleges by utilising existing hospital infrastructure under various departments will further enable access to care in the country. Today, India is the fourth largest medical equipment manufacturer, representing a sizeable growth opportunity for India, particularly as ‘China plus One’ policy takes root across countries. Local manufacturing, which has always been a focus across various government initiatives, is set to grow stronger with policies like National Medical Devices Policy 2023, Production Linked Incentive Scheme, Promotion of Research and Innovation in Pharma MedTech Sector (PRIP) Scheme. Moreover, 80 per cent procurement is in private sector, and this needs to be incentivised with economic benefit to buy locally manufactured medical devices. Rebates to private healthcare providers buying locally manufactured medical equipment in underserved areas and lower rebates for imported medical devices of similar specifications will address the access to care gap. Currently, 20 per cent rebate is provided by State governments of Madhya Pradesh to healthcare facilities built in non-metro/rural areas for buying MedTech products, enabling healthcare infrastructure build out in access-restricted geographies. To encourage healthcare facilities to buy locally, we must look at a strategic structure that transfers the economic benefit directly to these facilities. We also expect to see incentives and rebates for medical devices to make them globally competitive and enhance exports; coupled with the facilitation of single-window clearances for local manufacturers.”

    This budget aims to empower the healthcare sector for a healthier, stronger India

    Hariharan Subramanian, Managing Director, Siemens Healthcare Private Limited, mentioned, “It is imperative to strengthen healthcare infrastructure in India to manage the growing demand. In its journey of catering to the present and being prepared for future needs, the budget emphasises on better access to healthcare.

    In the fiscal year 2024-25 budget, the government revealed an ambitious plan for strengthening the healthcare sector in India. The emphasis on establishing medical colleges within existing hospital infrastructures is game-changing, resulting in a significant rise of healthcare professionals while expanding and enhancing healthcare accessibility across the country.

    A notable step was taken towards cervical cancer awareness, encouraging vaccination for young girls, further augmenting our efforts in enhancing the cancer care continuum, and closing the care gap, thereby creating a future without fear of cancer. Extending healthcare coverage under Ayushman Bharat is an inclusive strategy that ensures quality healthcare for everyone, everywhere.

    The budget also embraces new technology and promotes digital transformation, setting the path for economic potential and cost-effective, high-quality healthcare services across India. Fostering growth in the MedTech sector while emphasising on achieving its vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

    Overall, this budget aims to empower the healthcare sector for a healthier, stronger India.”

    Consolidating maternal, child care schemes under a comprehensive programme is a strategic move that will enhance efficiency

    Dr Sanjeev Singh, Medical Director, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, noted, “The Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, has presented a people-centric budget today. The government’s commitment to preventive healthcare is commendable. It is evident in the emphasis on vaccinating girls, between the ages of nine and 14, against cervical cancer. Additionally, consolidating maternal and child care schemes under a comprehensive programme is a strategic move that will enhance efficiency. The focus on upgrading Anganwadi centres through ‘Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0’ is promising for improved nutrition and early childhood development. We applaud the government’s proactive approach towards public health with the swift implementation of the U-WIN platform for immunisation management. The integration of Mission Indradhanush’s intensified efforts into this initiative reflects a commitment to reaching every corner of the country efficiently. This collaborative and technology-driven strategy is poised to revolutionise immunisation programmes, ensuring comprehensive coverage and safeguarding the health of our nation. We are particularly encouraged by the announcement of new nursing colleges co-located with medical colleges, supporting our shared goal of advancing healthcare education. Furthermore, the mission to eliminate sickle cell anaemia by 2047, involving the screening of seven crore people, reflects a visionary commitment to eradicating genetic disorders. These initiatives align with our shared goal of advancing public health, and we look forward to witnessing the positive impact on the well-being of our communities.”

    Budget has fulfilled expectations by addressing critical issues such as cervical cancer, maternal and child health

    Hari Krishna P, Executive Director, Medicover Group of Hospitals, India, added, “This budget has fulfilled our expectations by addressing critical issues such as cervical cancer and maternal and child health, which were previously overlooked. Cervical cancer is a significant concern for women and requires prompt intervention. The government will promote vaccination to prevent cervical cancer in girls aged nine to 14 and expand the Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme to cover ASHA and anganwadi workers. Many young people aspire to become qualified doctors in order to improve healthcare services accross the country.

    To achieve this, the government plans to establish more medical colleges by utilising existing hospital infrastructure across various departments. A committee will be formed to examine these matters and provide relevant recommendations. This move is important as we will be able to strengthen the healthcare system and provide timely treatment to the needy by saving lives. Additionally, a vaccine management platform called U-Win, similar to the CoWIN system used for COVID-19 vaccinations, will be implemented nationwide. The newly designed U-Win platform for managing immunisations, along with intensified efforts from mission Indradhanush, will be swiftly introduced throughout the country and will help to accelerate the immunisation rates. Even various maternal and child health schemes will be integrated into a comprehensive programme for better implementation synergy. This will help to safeguard the health of women and children and pave a way for a healthy living. This budget has met all our needs and we hope we will see a healthier India now.”

    We appreciate the strategic focus on strengthening medical education

    Anurag Yadav, CEO, IHH Healthcare India, commented, “We commend the government’s forward-looking approach in the 2024 interim budget, especially the establishment of nursing colleges alongside recently established medical colleges. As a hospital, we appreciate the strategic focus on strengthening medical education, aligning with our vision for a resilient healthcare system. With 33 per cent of the budget allocated to the National Health Mission and 27 per cent to medical colleges and hospitals, we are eager to actively contribute to this initiative. Our hospitals are ready to collaborate, working hand in hand to enhance the medical education landscape and contribute to building a healthier and more resilient society. This commitment is further exemplified by the focus on women’s health, including maternal health and a vaccination programme for cervical cancer prevention in young females. These initiatives, promising to improve women’s quality of life, reflect a comprehensive and inclusive healthcare strategy. We are eager to contribute to these efforts, working towards building a healthier and more resilient society.”

    Absence of specific allocations for AI in healthcare overlooks potential of AI in diagnostics and medical advancements

    Abrarali Dalal, Director & CEO, Sahyadri Hospitals Pvt Ltd, stated, “This year’s Union Budget is a testament to government’s dedication to improving public health in the country. The focus on establishing more medical colleges will help in utilising existing hospital infrastructure and creating quality professionals in healthcare. To enable wider access of preventive care and health cover, there is increased focus on vaccination for cervical cancer and extending health cover under the Ayushman Bharat scheme to ASHA and Anganwadi workers.

    The consolidation of maternal and child healthcare schemes into a comprehensive programme, alongside the expedited upgradation of Anganwadi centres and the rollout of the U-Win platform, reflects a holistic approach towards ensuring the well-being of women and children. These measures, coupled with the intensified efforts of Mission Indradhanush, signify a progressive leap towards a healthier and more resilient India. Mission Indradhanush is a critical health mission of the Government of India, aimed at achieving more than 90 per cent full immunisation coverage for children.

    The mission’s goal complements the comprehensive healthcare approach outlined in Budget 2024, reflecting the government’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of all citizens through proactive healthcare measures.

    The absence of specific allocations for AI in healthcare in this year’s budget, despite the previous focus on setting up a Center of Excellence in AI for health, overlooks the potential of AI in diagnostics and medical advancements.”

    Budget strongly focused on strengthening healthcare infrastructure, benefits towards urban, rural India

    Dr Manisha Karmarkar, CEO, DPU Super Specialty Hospital, Pimpri, Pune, said, “The budget strongly focused on strengthening healthcare infrastructure and benefits towards both urban and rural India. Strong and effective measures like provision and promotion of HPV vaccinations to counter the rise of cervical cancer cases and upgradation of Anganwadi Centres along with extending all healthcare benefits related to maternity and childcare to Anganwadi and ASHA workers, and efforts to control foot-on-mouth diseases, together showcases the futuristic vision of the government in promoting healthcare benefit s to the last mile.

    The announcement to build more medical colleges will have dual-benefit, addressing the alarming gap of doctors, especially MBBS and specialists and at the same time, boost medical tourism at a global level. The U-WIN platform for immunisation will be immensely benefit for activation and promotion of vaccination programmes across the country, thus helping India fight against multiple life-threatening diseases.”

    The Union Budget’s focus on consolidating maternal, child health schemes, a wise approach

    Sigal Atzmon, CEO & Founder, Medix Global added, “Having worked across diverse healthcare systems, I can see that India is taking important steps towards building the next phase of its healthcare eco-system with a shift towards more affordable, data-driven and accessible care. While there are still gaps in certain areas, the Union Budget’s dedicated focus on consolidating maternal and child health schemes reflects a wise approach to streamlining care delivery. Additionally, the announcement encouraging vaccination for girls to prevent cervical cancer is a proactive step towards prioritising preventive healthcare for women.”

    Budget combines optimism with cautious reflection for healthcare, showcasing 13 per cent increase from previous fiscal year

    Amol Naikawadi, Joint Managing Director and Preventive Health Specialist, Indus Health Plus, said, “The 2024 Union budget combines optimism with cautious reflection for healthcare, showcasing a 13% increase from the previous fiscal year. This rise suggests potential for addressing critical gaps in healthcare and infrastructure. With the setting up of new medical institutions, the budget underscores the importance of enhancing healthcare delivery systems and nurturing the next generation of healthcare professionals. The government’s proactive stance on preventive healthcare, particularly cervical cancer vaccination, aims to alleviate the disease burden. Recognising the pivotal role of frontline healthcare workers, the budget ensures their well-being through health coverage under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. While commendable initiatives like the ‘U-Win’ platform leverage technology for healthcare improvement, there’s a need for greater attention to rising lifestyle diseases and newer preventive technologies like genetic testing in the budget.”

    We commend the government for establishing a cervical cancer prevention plan

    Dr Simmardeep Singh Gill, MD & CEO, Sterling Hospitals, added, “The 2024 interim Budget offers promising advancements for India’s healthcare industry. We commend the government for establishing a cervical cancer prevention plan and their initiatives in encouraging cervical vaccination for girls between 9-14 years. The FM’s plan to set up a committee to increase access to medical education and have more medical colleges in the country demonstrates India’s commitment for long-term improvements in healthcare delivery.

    Proactive public health programmes like the extension of Ayushman Bharat programme to cover Anganwadi and Asha workers, expanding the reach of maternal and child healthcare schemes under one umbrella and renewed focus on Mission Indradhanush, ensuring complete childhood immunisation are significant steps in promoting essential access to care for those serving rural communities. This streamlined approach can improve access and quality of care, particularly for vulnerable women and children in rural areas. Together, these measures paint a positive picture for a healthier, more prosperous Vikasit Bharat.”

    The announcement today are positive, provide strong roadmap to make India ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047

    Dr Vaibhav Kapoor, Co-founder, Pristyn Care, noted, “In the last few years, the different schemes and initiatives around healthcare have demonstrated the government’s unwavering commitment to fostering self-reliance in India. The interim budget today presented by Hon’ble Finance Minister continues on this path to reaffirm Government’s commitment. We welcome the key announcement today that girls between 9-14 years will be protected from cervical cancer through the Government’s proposed vaccination initiative. We also laud the announcement to set up more medical colleges using existing hospital infrastructure. We are happy that the Ayushman Bharat cover will be extended to all Anganwadi and ASHA workers and that all maternal and child healthcare schemes will be brought under one comprehensive scheme. Overall, the announcement today are positive and provide a strong roadmap to make India ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047 with focus on Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas.”

    Interim budget from healthcare announcements perspective is in line with optimism in India’s growth story

    Dr Jagprag Singh Gujral, SVP MDO/ Head of Emerging Markets, Varian (Siemens Healthineers Company) and Group CEO- CTSI, observed, “We are happy to see the budget’s renewed focus on preventive initiatives for cancer such as cervical cancer the FM alluded to. Talent pool enhancement through the announcement for medical colleges and extension of the Ayushmann Bharat scheme are welcome positives for the growing middle-class youth and the healthcare industry. The interim budget from a healthcare announcements perspective is in line with the optimism in India’s growth story.”

    Greater emphasis on budgetary allocations for healthcare could have significantly enhanced accessibility, healthcare delivery

    Lovekesh Phasu, Group COO, Sakra World Hospital, Bengaluru said, “While the government’s laudable efforts, such as cervical cancer vaccination and maternal healthcare schemes, tackle vital health concerns, there remains room for improvement. Greater emphasis on budgetary allocations for healthcare infrastructure, telemedicine expansion, medical research funding, could have significantly enhanced accessibility and healthcare delivery across the nation.

    We anticipate comprehensive allocation, specifically designated for healthcare in July budget

    Joseph Pasangha, Group COO, SPARSH Group of Hospitals, Bangalore, said, “The government’s commitment to implementing economic policies that facilitate high-quality and affordable medical care for all is crucial for fostering investments in healthcare. The inclusion of cervical cancer vaccination for girls under 15 in the Universal Immunisation Programme would be highly advantageous if actioned. Efforts to address foot & mouth disease and the consolidation of various schemes into a comprehensive programme for maternal and child healthcare will enhance synergy, leading to improved implementation. However, we anticipate a comprehensive allocation, specifically designated for healthcare in the upcoming July budget. This allocation should concentrate on establishing efficient processes for selecting, implementing, and monitoring Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to meet the current need. Well-defined guidelines and a cooperative approach between public and private entities are essential for nurturing successful partnerships capable of addressing critical healthcare needs nationwide.”

    This is not just a budget; it’s a pledge—a pledge to build a healthier, more resilient India for generations to come

    Dheeraj Jain, Redcliffe Labs, said, In the fabric of India’s healthcare, the interim budget announcement 2024 by FM Sitaraman unveils a tapestry of hope, especially with its strides towards addressing cervical cancer, the silent predator claiming thousands of lives annually. With cervical cancer ranking as the nation’s second leading cancer, the allocation for a vaccination drive targeting girls aged 9 to 14 echoes the urgency of the hour.

    The significance of this budget extends beyond mere numbers, for it promises to fortify our hospitals’ infrastructure and streamline schemes dedicated to children and maternal health. It’s not merely a fiscal plan; it’s a blueprint for a paradigm shift toward a Healthier Bharat. As we chart this course, I am reminded of the countless lives we can save and the futures we can safeguard.

    In the essence of simplicity yet profound impact, the budget’s narrative speaks directly to the hearts of every Indian. Specifically, the steps taken towards empowering women’s health are essential for the overall well-being of women and the thriving future of the country. Together, through awareness, advocacy, and unwavering commitment, we can make quality healthcare accessible for all. This is not just a budget; it’s a pledge—a pledge to build a healthier, more resilient India for generations to come.”

    Interim Budget neutral for diagnostics industry, hoping for favourable budget in final budget

    Ashish Singhal, CFO & Company Secretary, CORE Diagnostics Pvt Ltd, added, I am optimistic about the Union Budget 2024-25. The emphasis on infrastructure financing, incentivising R&D, and regulatory policies for health startups aligns with our vision at CORE Diagnostics. We believe that these measures will foster innovation, enhance accessibility, and ultimately improve patient outcomes in the healthcare sector. We look forward to seeing the positive impact of these policies on the diagnostics industry and the healthcare sector as a whole. This Interim Budget was neutral for the Diagnostics industry, we hope for the favourable budget in the Final budget.”

    Overall budget continues the path for growth of healthcare and access in India

    Hitesh Sharma, Partner, Life Sciences Leader – Tax, EY India, commented, “Given the Government’s perspective of keeping the interim budget an on-account vote, the Finance Minister did not dwell into any specifics, leaving the changes for the full budget post-elections. While she spoke of the past performance, as far as the health science sector is concerned, there was some perspectives on things to come in future.

    There was a commitment to focus on setting up medical colleges in existing hospitals, focus on women healthcare with encouragement of cervical cancer vaccination for young girls, maternal and childcare-related schemes for improved nutrition delivery, early childhood care and development etc. The focus on research and innovation was given a further boost by announcing a one lakh crore corpus for providing interest-free loan for a long duration for research and innovation for private sector. Also, the cover under Ayushman Bharat Scheme has been extended to cover ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and helpers.

    On the tax front, the expectation of extension of concessional tax regime of 15 per cent for manufacturing facilities beyond 31 March 2024 remained unmet.

    While we will look at the full budget in July for more details, what is also positive is that there is increase in outlay on Health for FY 2024-25 versus the revised estimates for FY 2023-24. So overall the budget continues the path for growth of healthcare and access in India.”

    Saksham Anganwadi, Poshan 2.0 focused on importance of early childhood nutrition

    Priyanka Aggarwal, Managing Director & Senior Partner Co-Lead, Healthcare Practice, BCG India remarked, “The interim budget for 2024 reflects the government’s robust commitment to healthcare. The focus on preventive measures, such as cervical cancer vaccination for young girls, and extending health coverage to ASHA and Anganwadi workers, highlights a proactive approach. Initiatives like ‘Saksham Anganwadi’ and Poshan 2.0 are focused on importance of early childhood nutrition while consolidating maternal and child healthcare schemes aims to strengthen implementation.

    The newly designed ‘U-Win’ platform for immunisation management and the expansion of Mission Indradhanush show a dedication to nationwide vaccination efforts. The government’s move to set up more medical colleges using existing hospital infrastructure is a significant boost for aspiring doctors, aligning with the youth’s ambitions for improved healthcare. These initiatives reflect a concerted effort to build a resilient and self-reliant healthcare system for the well-being of the nation.”

    Re-emphasis on ‘Anusandhan’ reflects push for high-level strategic research

    Dr Harshit Jain, Founder & Global CEO, Doceree, shared, “The FY 2024-25 interim budget, announced by our Hon’ble Finance Minister, heralds a transformative phase for all industries, including Health-Tech. The allocation of 50-year interest-free loans for technology-supported start-ups is commendable, poised to inspire youth, fostering innovation for groundbreaking healthcare solutions. The re-emphasis on ‘Anusandhan’ reflects a push for high-level strategic research, reinforcing the pharmaceutical industry’s commitment to tailored treatments for India’s diverse population. Further, the decision to expand medical educational institutions using existing hospital infrastructure underscores the government’s dedication to a skilled healthcare workforce, strengthening our healthcare system. The budget’s focus on maternal and early childhood healthcare, backed by new schemes, also promises improved outcomes.”

    We anticipate witnessing more initiatives leveraging deep-tech solutions to make quality healthcare accessible, affordable

    Nihar Parikh, Founder of 4point0 Health Ventures, said “We are pleased to see the interim budget’s focus on expanding healthcare access by extending healthcare facilities under Ayushman Bharat to all Anganwadi workers. Establishing medical colleges and hospitals in more districts nationwide is also a significant step towards addressing the crucial issue of healthcare accessibility.

    The Government’s commitment to advancing maternal and child healthcare, including initiatives such as cervical cancer vaccination programmes and enhanced nutrition delivery, is extremely commendable. With a corpus of 1 lakh crore allocated to provide 50-year interest-free loans to sunrise sectors like tech and research, we anticipate witnessing more initiatives that leverage deep-tech solutions to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable.”

    We anticipate some more encouraging announcements with planned outline in coming months

    Dr Narendra Vankar, Founder and CEO, Quantum CorpHealth, said, “This fiscal year’s interim budget, which covers a wide range of areas and lays out specific actions to be carried out, is a demonstration of the government’s progressive thinking. We applaud the government’s dedication to bolstering the healthcare industry, with a particular emphasis on building a strong system for today’s contemporary India.

    It is very appreciated that girls between the ages of 9 and 14 will now receive cervical cancer vaccinations in schools, as stated by Hon Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman. By focusing on nutrition delivery as a component of early childhood care and development, Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 will contribute tothe creation of a healthy community. With the kind of components being combined to make health the most reliable foundation of Atmanirbhar Bharat, the Indian government is providing strong assistance to the healthcare industry. We anticipate some more encouraging announcements with the planned outline in the coming months, which will help the industry grow even more and thrive in a more improved manner.”

    • Published On Feb 1, 2024 at 09:40 PM IST

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