Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is all set to present the interim budget on Thursday (February 1) with the health sector expecting that the government’s projected spending will be aimed at improving the quality of healthcare across the nation.
Dr Girdhar Gyani, who is the Director General of the Association of Healthcare Providers (AHPI), urged the government to increase budget allocation on health to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP to meet its objective of having universal health coverage. He also pointed out the World Health Organization (WHO) requirement of 3.5 beds per 1000 people.
Dr Gyani spoke to the India-based news agency ANI, stating, “Adult vaccination should be subsidised. (The government should) launch adult vaccination at subsidised rates as a preventive measure among vulnerable populations, including influenza, HPV for women to prevent cervical cancer, pneumococcal disease, and zoster.”
“We need basic health infrastructure across the nation to ensure the availability and accessibility of hospital beds. We need to add more than double the number of beds to match the WHO requirement of 3.5 beds per 1000 people,” he said.
Dr Sanjeev Singh, Medical Director at Amrita Hospital in Faridabad, reiterated the same. He said that it is unfortunate that the GDP spent on healthcare in India stands at 1.9 per cent. As quoted by ANI, he said, “Unfortunately, in India up until now, as we speak, the GDP spent for healthcare allocated is only 1.9 per cent.”
Dr Singh highlighted that it has to be the United States level at 17 per cent, and also mentioned that the United Kingdom is at 9.3 per cent. He noted that India should be at 2.5 per cent. He argues that some of the contributions definitely would come from the private sector as well.
Last year in the Union budget, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare received an allocation of Rs 89,155 crore for 2023-24, an increase of 12.6 per cent compared to the revised Budget estimates for 2022-23.
Sitharaman had said that the government aims to focus on skills, research and innovation in the sector in the aftermath of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic heightened the need as she announced a slew of measures for the Union Health Ministry.
Sitharaman will present the interim Union Budget on Thursday. The interim budget typically takes care of the fiscal needs of the intervening period until a government is formed after the Lok Sabha polls.
(With inputs from agencies)