Increase the public spending to at least 2.5% of GDP: FICCI

Dr Alok Roy, Chair-FICCI Health Services Committee & Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals
Dr Alok Roy, Chair-FICCI Health Services Committee & Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals

The industry body FICCI has welcomed the steps announced by the Finance Minister for augmenting public health infrastructure in the country.

While these are commendable steps towards Atma-nirbhar Bharat, it is crucial that they are put into immediate implementation so that their impact can be realised in the next three-five years. Said Dr Alok Roy, Chair-FICCI Health Services Committee & Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals, “The increase in public spending on healthcare should be increased to at least 2.5% of GDP, which has been assured in the National Health Policy 2017.”

The well-thought-out strategy for creating public-private infrastructure of hospitals, public-funded labs across the country, emphasis on preparedness for infectious diseases at block level as well as greater importance to research and digital health will indeed form the pillars of growth for the sector. These are crucial for enhancing healthcare delivery across the continuum.

Provision of 30% viability gap funding (VGF) for PPPs for hospitals in tier- II & III cities is also a welcome step. Last year, the government had announced the 20% VGF scheme, which has not seen many takers. It is important to understand that VGF for only capex is not viable for the healthcare sector, and should be considered for both capex as well as op-ex financing.

However, all these announcements are only long-term steps that will help enhance the healthcare capacity of the country but do not provide any respite from the crisis owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The industry was hopeful of a relief package for the health sector that has faced acute financial as well as physical stress over the past couple of months. While the government has been considerate towards agriculture, one of the key pillars for the economic growth of a country, but the health sector that is the epicentre of the ongoing crisis has been ignored.