Union Budget 2021 | Fillip to health sector, say healthcare providers

Healthcare providers on Monday hailed the Budget saying it provides the much-needed fillip to the health sector and is a testimony to the commitment to not only fight back the pandemic, but also to build a stronger and resilient health system.

The government has proposed an outlay of ₹2,23,846 crore for health and well-being, an increase of 137% from the previous year, with ₹35,000 crore earmarked for COVID-19 vaccine in the coming fiscal.

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO South-East Asia Region, said one of the greatest lessons this pandemic has taught the world is that health needs to be a priority.

“The thrust and focus to health in the Budget announcement is a testimony to the commitment to not just fight back the COVID-19 pandemic, but to build a stronger and resilient health system. India has been demonstrating this.

“India has not only proactively and belligerently dealt with the pandemic, it has and continues to support countries in the South-East Asia Region and beyond providing essential medical supplies and now vaccines, to protect the vulnerable populations against the pandemic,” she said.

According to Professor K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), the Budget provides much-needed fillip to health, sanitation, nutrition and pollution control.

All of these are key elements in promoting health and well-being of the population in a holistic manner, he said.

Primary healthcare, one of the most critical elements of healthcare provision in an efficient and equitable system, is now getting strengthened with even the previously neglected urban healthcare component receiving attention and resources, Prof. Reddy said.

“So, there is going to be addition of health and wellness centres not only in rural but also in urban areas. Disease prevention is also dependent on effective surveillance. Hence, strengthening of National Centres for Disease Control and its regional branches plus district-level surveillance systems and the provision for more virological testing laboratories, all of them will contribute to better pandemic preparedness and response.”

Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Chairman of the Apollo Hospitals Group, said the pandemic was an unprecedented crisis and underlined the importance of building a resilient infrastructure.

“Today, the Finance Minister said health was her first pillar and her announcements to develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems greatly gladdened my heart. This ground-breaking focus on health which will provide access to medical care for all in our country, fuel job creation and boost economic momentum,” Dr. Reddy said.

“The allocation of ₹35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines and more if required, makes our glorious nation stand tall as a model for the world,” he said.

Dr. Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, Managing Director and CEO of Fortis Healthcare, said, “The 137% increase is notable. Further, an infusion of ₹35,000 crore for vaccine development and distribution, ensuring preventive and frontline health and allied workers’ skills building along with surveillance on infectious building, reinforces government’s assurance on public health programmes. We feel that the steps are necessary to boost healthcare infrastructure and the private healthcare sector will continue to stand with India and support the government initiatives.”

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