27/02/2015 5:58 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Budget Should Push For 'Health For All'

Indian relatives of swine flu patients sit outside an isolation ward for swine flu at the Civil Hospital in Ahmadabad, India, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.The west Indian city has banned large public gatherings in an attempt to halt the spread of swine flu, which has claimed more than 900 lives nationwide in 11 weeks. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

A strong focus on health sector is a key to nation's prosperity and the government must step up its allocations to achieve the targets set for 'Health for All' vision.

The Indian healthcare industry is growing at a 15 per cent CAGR toreach US$ 158.2 billion by 2017 but yet the sector is in shambles. The sector, therefore, has high expectations from the Union Budget, both for reforms and expenditure. We cannot deny that India still lags behind in meeting the international standards. Currently, India is amongst those countries which spend the lowest on healthcare in the world, and is ranked 171st out of 175 countries in terms of public health spending.

The government is hoping to increase the spending on healthcare from 1.04%, which is among the lowest in the world even among poor countries of GDP to 2.5%. Today 70% of the healthcare services are provided by the private sector for the country. Increase in fund allocation for healthcare is highly appreciable and underlines the fact that health is indeed moving up the priority list in our central policies.

Implementation is key

The finance minister must take definitive steps to expedite the grant of infrastructure status to the healthcare sector; expanding infrastructure for medical education and also ease the norms for creation of new colleges and centers of excellence for higher medical learning. Hospitals are major component of the Indian Healthcare sector. Indian hospital industry is fragmented with a large number of independent, privately run hospital and healthcare centers. Industry is witnessing dearth of good doctors and nurses. There is only one doctor per 1,700 citizens in India, World Health Organization stipulates a minimum ratio of 1:1,000, The current demand for doctors in the industry is around 12 lakhs but the supply is only 7 lakhs, while the demand for nurses is 32 lakhs and supply is only 8 lakhs

Additionally, expand the scale and scope of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY); the budget should have a more futuristic prospect while allocating resource to healthcare sector, by which I mean designated and targeted resources for preventive healthcare services and chronic diseases. Spending on ensuring healthy behaviour, information, education and communication about health is simply an extended arm of vertical healthcare programmes.It is promising to note that the PM, Mr. Modi stresses on the need for preventive healthcare in India. More awareness and early screening can greatly reduce the disease and cost burden.

Finally, I would like to conclude that the budget should not only simply allot bigger numbers to healthcare spending, but should also ensure a more regulated spending. Shaping and consolidating fragmented healthcare markets like hospitals is extremely crucial for ensuring better access to quality health care.

Finance Ministers Since Independence

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