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Overall budget for healthcare should go up, say experts

New Delhi: India needs to focus more on its healthcare budget provisions. Currently, only one per cent of its total GDP (gross domestic product) is allocated to healthcare, which makes India among the lowest in the world when it comes to public spending on healthcare. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will be presenting his first Union Budget for the year 2015-2016 on Feb 28. Healthcare experts are expecting the best.

“To provide a spur to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Make In India’ plan, Budget 2015 needs to heavily focus on healthcare. The industry also wants tax holiday benefit to hospitals set up in urban areas. E-Visas and VOA (Visa on Arrival) should extend to African countries and European Union countries where there is huge waiting period by NHS (UK’s National Health Service). Oral hygiene awareness should be increased, insurance should include dental surgeries and dental treatments, while increase in the GDP allocation on healthcare will help the government achieve its vision of universal healthcare and reduce out-of-pocket spending for a common man,” suggested V S Venkatesh, CEO, Apollo White Dental.

According to Venkatesh, Indian dental care services market, dentists and dental ancillary services was approximately a $740 million market in 2010 and is expected to reach $1.3 billion by 2015 at a compound annual growth rate of 12%.

When it comes to medical technology, G S K Velu, founder and managing director, Trivitron Group, thinks that the ground level changes are required for making India import independent in around 10 years from now, on the announcement of 100% FDI (foreign direct investment) for medical devices by Prime Minister Modi.

“India is moving from 50% import dependency five years ago to over 75% currently and if corrective steps are not taken, we will soon be 90% import dependent in this Rs 35,000 crore medical devices industry. Care should be taken to keep the domestic companies of Indian origin viable and sustainable to ensure access and affordability to larger section of Indian population,” said Velu.

The market of medical devices is estimated at over Rs 35,000 crore and there is a huge manufacturing potential for import substitution for catering to the domestic demand as well as tap the huge potential of the export market as done by China, Brazil, Turkey, Malaysia etc, according to Velu.

He further said, “In the upcoming budget this year, we are expecting the government to look at medical technology as a vital sector and promote Indian manufacturing by removing Inverse Duty Structure, providing fiscal incentives for local innovation and manufacturing initiatives, offer proper incentives for exports from India and creating a Medical Devices unit under the Department of Pharmaceuticals to promote local innovation and manufacturing in this import dependent industry.”

The pharmaceutical industry is more keen on the new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be announced by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DOP) for encouraging the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) industry in India. “We are already coordinating with the DOP to encourage the regulators. We have given the proposals. For example, India has fantastic capacity for penicillin G (Benzylpenicillin) but China has started dumping it in India at lowest prices, making the viability very difficult. Indian manufacturing companies who manufacture the drug penicillin G have failed down,” said C V Venkataraman, Director, Corporate Services, Lupin Limited.

Dr Santanu Chattopadhyay, CEO, Nationwide Primary Healthcare Services, emphasized on the need of public-private partnership model to be followed by various healthcare providers. “India spends a lot of money in tertiary healthcare. There is hardly any money spent on primary healthcare, the reason why government should increase the expenditure on primary healthcare. Overall budget for the healthcare should go up.”

With the emergence of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) requirement in India, Dr Rakesh Sharma, vice president, Bourn Hall Clinic, suggested that the government should look at the industry as part of the global economy. “This industry should really be supported. There is a huge demand in the world. Many governments across the world have banned surrogacy in their countries but India still has it. We have well qualified ART (assisted reproductive technology) centres and doctors and we can draw a huge revenue out of it. Government only needs to regularise it.”

Alok Khanna, corporate business head, Rockland Group of Hospitals, said that the 99-billion dollar healthcare industry is growing exponentially. “Tier 1 or tier 2 cities are the next point of the growth. Government should support the healthcare entrepreneurs and major players in the coming times. Healthcare policies should be introduced for the senior citizens,” he added.

by Priyanka V Gupta

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