Union Budget 2023-24 addresses shortage of healthcare personnel, boosts health infra
The Union Budget 2023-24 has allocated a whopping Rs 88,956 crore to health expenditure, which is a Rs 2,350 crore more than last year. A hike of 2.71 per cent than Union Budget 2022-23 has obviously made everyone happy, but many it’s dil maange more. After all, a nation is as healthy as its people.
Namit Chugh, Investment Lead, W Health Ventures
This year’s budget highlights the government’s continued push toward improving access to quality healthcare for all. We are particularly excited about the announcement to open three inter-disciplinary AI (artificial intelligence) research and development centres to “Make AI in India and Make AI work for India.” AI in Healthcare has already shown immense promise across the globe in improving care. We have seen use cases across diagnostics where AI tools are bettering accuracy, speed and also enabling early diagnosis, mental health where AI chatbots can be used as the first line of treatment, etc. Given the potential to create large healthcare data sets in India used to train
AI and the pool of highly qualified tech talent, this move by the government makes us more ready than ever to make AI in Healthcare a trillion-dollar opportunity. Additional investment in developing and upskilling healthcare personnel like nurses and technicians was one of our key expectations from the Union Budget. We welcome the announcement to set up 157 new nursing colleges in the country, a move that will be pivotal not only to healthcare but also employment.
Dr Shrey Kumar Srivastav, Sharda hospital
This budget is satisfactory as the government focused on mental health, especially post-covid. Increasing the number of medical and nursing colleges and ICMR Labs will definitely help in overcoming scarcity of healthcare professionals. Increment in healthcare expenditures will give more hope to health sector investors. But things like affordable healthcare facilities, policies for health tourism, financial policies for doctors and other healthcare professionals should also have been given due diligence.
Pritika Singh, CEO, Prayag Hospitals Group
We welcome FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement regarding establishing 157 new nursing colleges in core locations. In addition, the proposal for a multidisciplinary course for medical devices for skilled manpower is also praiseworthy. The dedicated multidisciplinary course for medical devices will be supported in existing institutions to ensure the availability of skilled manpower for futuristic medical technologies and high-end manufacturing and research. The health budget has been increasing yearly, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. The new program for pharma research proposed by the FM is also laudable as it will encourage industry to invest in research, a long due demand of pharmaceutical industry.
Meena Ganesh, Co-Founder & Chairperson, Portea Medical
The government has focused on some of the core needs of the health and wellness sector. The plan to establish 157 nursing colleges as collocated facilities alongside medical colleges will help cover the shortage of trained healthcare workforce and lead to greater healthcare coverage of the out-of-hospital medical services. The plans to provide access to ICMR labs and other R&D facilities as well as a collaborative approach to pharmaceuticals research and encouragement of private sector investments, multi-disciplinary training for R&D and manufacturing of high-quality medical devices, and various other such measures are going to augur well for the overall universal healthcare access and quality in India. The centers of excellence in Artificial Intelligence to be set up for sectors like health will ensure that the country starts creating tech-based solutions in-house. This will further encourage innovation in the country and ensure that the health tech sector in India picks up pace. However, we were looking for some announcements in the area of accessibility and affordability of personalized care for the masses. A crisis situation like the pandemic toppled healthcare systems globally and some clarity on how the country will handle a similar situation in the times to come was needed.
Runam Mehta, CEO, HealthCube
The decision to provide multi-disciplinary training for the development of medical devices and support for the manufacturing of high-quality devices is going to be a key enabler for the domestic medical devices industry. These courses will not only ensure the availability of skilled manpower for future medical technology but also offer opportunities for high-end manufacturing research. The decision of opening up facilities in select ICMR labs for research by private and medical colleges will enable better infrastructure access for both individuals and organizations who are looking at undertaking research and innovation in this area. I appreciate the mission to eliminate sickle cell anemia by 2047 through awareness generation and universal screening of 7 crore people in affected tribal areas; an essential step taken in the right direction.
Dr Arbinder Singal, Co-founder & CEO, Fitterfly
The announcements in the Union Budget indicate a focus on improving the overall ecosystem for startups and sectors such as healthcare. The steps taken towards ease of doing business including the move to reduce compliances and decriminalize legal provisions are welcome. On the healthcare and health tech fronts, the decision to offer private players access to ICMR labs and other health research facilities would enable the development of evidence-based preventive care programs and disease management strategies for lifestyle conditions such as diabetes and heart problems. For a Digital Therapeutics platform like us, it is encouraging to see the government focus on AI and IoT integration in health management as it will help in increasing the adoption of smart wearables such as Continuous Glucose Monitors and other devices that record vitals. Empowering medical devices and technology developers would lead to greater access, affordability and effectiveness of health management services. A number of skill development initiatives including the setting up of 157 nursing colleges across India will also help in creating a much larger pool of trained healthcare workers who will subsequently play a key role in disease management and monitoring. We hope that these decisions will be implemented through effective and easier collaborations between the private and public sectors.
Nilesh Aggarwal, CEO, IJCP Group and Founder, MedTalks
The Union Budget 2023-2024 has a strong focus on the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, which is a welcome move. The new program for research for pharmaceuticals is particularly important, as the emergence of new illnesses globally poses a risk of collapse to the healthcare system if high-quality research is not conducted continuously. We at IJCP are involved in various kinds of medical research and writing and look forward to supporting Indian research being put on the global map. Additionally, the 157 nursing colleges that will be set up will help to address the shortage of quality care in healthcare. Digital health is of uttermost importance in the post-pandemic era and a greater focus needs to be laid on making healthcare more accessible and affordable. Though we wished to see more provisions for healthcare infrastructure and medical education, overall, this budget is a step in the right direction when it comes to prioritizing healthcare investment and ensuring access to affordable treatments.
Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant women’s health, Trustee, Heart Care Foundation of India
The Union Budget 2023-2024 has a strong focus on healthcare and the environment which we welcome at Heart Care Foundation of India. One Health was a concept that our founding president Dr KK Aggarwal strongly focused on and the provisions in the budget to help achieve net zero emissions by 2070 through the adoption of more energy-efficient ways of travel and fuel consumption will have a great impact on our overall physical well-being as well. We welcome the increased focus on healthcare research which will enable us to be better prepared to tackle all new and unknown illnesses that we may be threatened by in the future. Promoting nursing education through the setting up of 157 new nursing colleges will help make quality care accessible to a larger population. We hoped to see more focus on training centers on heart disease and CPR in the budget given the drastic increase in the number of heart attacks among the younger population in India. Metabolic diseases deserve specific attention as well given the pandemic proportions of these diseases due to the high-stress and unhealthy lives that the population at large is now leading. Mental health has come to the fore with COVID-19 in mammoth proportions and deserved to be given more priority in the budget as well.
Shiva Sriram, VP Marketing, Molbio Diagnostics
The Union Budget 2023-24 encourages development of indigenous healthcare technologies. The Covid-19 pandemic clearly highlighted the importance of having Indian companies, making for India. If we are to enable quality healthcare access for all, we need high-quality R&D happening in the country and this budget facilitates the same. The ICMR Labs facilities will now be available for private sector and public sector R&D teams. This encourages public-private collaboration and leveraging existing infrastructure. This move will further encourage Indian Innovators and Medical Device Manufacturers by providing an ideal ecosystem for developing and manufacturing technologies for better, affordable healthcare solutions. The pandemic highlighted a few innovative products such as Truenat, that made an impact globally. We can expect more such products coming from India if we enlarge the focus on R&D.
Kiran Gadela, Co-Founder & MD, Oasis Fertility
The Union Budget 2023-24 falls short of expectations in the healthcare sector. There was a hope for more initiatives in the healthcare sector like improvement of infrastructure, promotion of medical tourism, tax rebate on greater insurance coverage, etc., but the budget did not cover any of those areas. On the positive side, boosting the nursing sector by the opening of new colleges and a focus on skilling for the medical devices sector would help the sector. We hope there will be further detailed announcements in terms of focused budget allocation. The opportunity is ripe for India to be positioned as a preferred medical tourism destination. We welcome the improved tax slabs to positively impact entry and mid-level healthcare professionals.
Anish Bafna, CEO & MD, Healthium Medtech
Healthium Medtech welcomes the Union Budget, as a progressive one for addressing India’s medical skill gap. The budget rightly calls out the need for dedicated medical training to ensure a skilled work force for resilient and futuristic medical technologies. The low doctor-to-patient ratio in the country demands focus on key areas, centred around upskilling caregivers, standardizing medical procedures and access to hands on training with high quality medical devices. The call to action for leading industry players to collaborate in interdisciplinary research will result in the development of cutting-edge applications and scalable solutions. Medical faculty upskilling to adhere to the evolving market and industry changes remains pertinent. The allotment of 157 new nursing colleges will serve as a vantage point for industry. A symbiotic relationship between surgeons, nurses, academia and medtech firms can be a starting point for quick adoption of new technologies like 5G and AI in healthcare. The availability of research laboratories to public and private sectors from Indian Council for Medical Research will foster innovation and R&D. The National Data Governance Policy will certainly provide a new lease of life for academia and start-ups to build acumen and capability in the fields of Innovation and Research. The new program to promote research and innovation in pharmaceuticals as Centres of Excellence (CoEs) will influence the industry sentiment and encourage investments for R&D. As we progress into ‘Amrit Kaal’, healthcare as an industry needs to come together and upskill professionals for the future, to meet the desired patient safety standards.
Alka Saxena, CFO, HCAH– a health tech
In order to improve the quality of health services there is a need for properly trained and educated healthcare professionals. The setting up of new nursing colleges will help in building a pool of quality manpower capable of providing patient care in and out of medical establishments. The pharmaceutical industry and its allied partners can help in achieving the goal of eradicating sickle cell anaemia by 2047. The private sector can supplement the government efforts in reaching all corners of the country and help in screening people.
Carina Kohli, Founder & CEO, Humm Care
With a focus and emphasis on innovation, research and AI in the Union Budget 2023-24 for the healthcare sector, the future of healthcare in India looks promising. The increase in collaborative initiatives for interdisciplinary research will most definitely encourage innovation and build a stronger foundation to this sector, as well as others. The focus on digitalisation of healthcare will also help scale initiatives faster and reach a wider audience in a shorter time period, in turn helping and improving the quality of healthcare outcomes for many.
Sanjay Vinayak, Founder and CEO, Connect and Heal
The Union budget 2023 provides much-needed thrust for the healthcare sector. Multi-disciplinary courses in high-end medical technology will help improve healthcare in more than one way – improving quality and access to care. We believe it will help expand the scope and adoption of preventive healthcare. The setting up of centers of excellence towards ‘Make AI for India’ and ‘Make AI work for India’ is a commendable move that will help the healthcare ecosystem in a big way.”
Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, MD & CEO, Fortis Healthcare Limited
This year’s budget has set the pathway for India to achieve universal health coverage. We welcome various initiatives announced by the Finance Minister to address the long-standing gaps of the Indian healthcare ecosystem. The budget focuses on the opening of 157 new nursing colleges and using existing facilities in select ICMR labs for research by public & private medical facilities. The announcement of dedicated multidisciplinary courses for medical devices in existing institutions to ensure the availability of skilled manpower for futuristic medical technologies and high-end manufacturing will play a pivotal role in strengthening the healthcare sector. We also welcome the Mission to eliminate sickle cell anemia by 2047 which will immensely benefit a large population. Greater emphasis on R&D, innovation and results-based financing towards more effective PPP will prove to be beneficial in creating the much-needed shift towards quality and higher value. In view of the G20 presidency, overall, the announcements provide a strong impetus to strengthen the Indian healthcare ecosystem.
Arham Jain, Co Founder, NutraBooti
Union Budget 2023 focuses on the need to increase investment in the R&D sector when it comes to the health and pharmaceutical industry. Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has been observing exponential growth. Pharmaceutical products and services are subject to taxation ranging from 5-12 per cent, while nutraceutical products are taxed at a rate of 18 per cent. The industry was hoping for a relaxation in the taxation rate. The Nutraceutical industry in India is worth $7 billion, it accounts for $400 billion worldwide. One of the major challenges is that it still remains unregulated. We expected tax exemptions / rebates, it could have helped the industry grow.
Dr (Hon) S Senthil Kandeepan, MD and CEO, Healthwatch
With the Union Budget encouraging further investment in R&D and supporting dedicated multidisciplinary courses for medical devices in existing institutions to ensure availability of skilled manpower for future futuristic medical technologies, high-end manufacturing and research, we are looking forward to the medical devices and diagnostics industry getting further boost. The health-tech industry has already witnessed rapid growth over the last 5 years, estimated to grow to $50 bn by 2033. While the government had announced that it will be offering financial incentives to encourage the production of high-end medical devices, this has still not been addressed and no measures taken to help end the 80-85% import dependence forced upon India as well as the ever increasing import bill of around INR 50,000 crore. Supporting policies are required to allow the medical devices industry to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for the masses and catapult our country into becoming one of the top medical devices manufacturing hubs globally. A gradual phasing out of GST which was definitely the need of the hour was also unfortunately not addressed.