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NATHEALTH welcomes ‘Affordability-Accessibility focused Budget for Healthcare’

New Delhi: The Healthcare Federation of India (NATHEALTH) on Thursday termed the overall Union Budget 2017-18, including the healthcare part, as progressive, with some unmet needs.

NATHEALTH applauded the government’s focus on elimination of chronic/communicable diseases in a time-bound manner and improvement of access to healthcare. The government has focused on bridging the accessibility/affordability gap for the under-privileged.

“FM’s Budget clearly focuses on improving healthcare access for the less privileged and on “preventive & wellness” both of which are very encouraging. Target of transforming 1.5 lakh health sub-centres into health wellness centres is in line with the need of the hour for the Indian citizens,” Anjan Bose, Secretary General, NATHEALTH, said, while reacting to the Union Budget 2017-18 proposals.

NATHEALTH pointed out that creating additional 5,000 post graduate medical seats per annum would help in creating adequate availability of specialist doctors to strengthen secondary and tertiary levels of healthcare. The addition of two more AIIMS should also add to these efforts.

NATHEALTH also feels that separate Aadhaar-linked health cards for the senior citizens, Rs 6,000 aid for every pregnant woman, accreditation of colleges and increasing budget for road safety, rural health and Swatch Bharat should all add up to improving health of the masses.

“Annual addition of 5,000 PG (medical) seats and focus on DNB courses are good attempts to address the serious demand-supply gaps in the availability of skilled healthcare professionals,” said Bose.

NATHEALTH also appreciated the government’s decision to come out with new rules for medical devices, which would be harmonized with international practices.

“New rules for medical devices and amendment in Drugs and Cosmetics Act would rationalize the cost of medicine and devices. The decision aims at making healthcare more affordable to the people. The decision for global harmonization of the medical devices rules is encouraging,” Bose added.

NATHEALTH had recommended the creation of Health Infrastructure Fund and Medical Innovation Fund to meet the funding requirements of the healthcare sector. However, these funding provisions could not find place in this year’s budget announcement.

While generally welcoming the Health Budget’s reformist and progressive moves, NATHEALTH said that the sector would have got a major boost had the government accorded it the National Priority Sector Status.

Priority Sector status to healthcare would have helped in the process of enabling development of innovative long term financing structures for healthcare providers apart from creating a more attractive environment for domestic production of medical equipment, devices and consumables while also catalysing research and development. This would channelize funds from the banking sector for creating necessary healthcare infrastructure and further help in meeting the healthcare sector’s needs across the country, according NATHEALTH.

NATHEALTH is an association of leading healthcare service providers, medical technology providers (devices & equipment), diagnostic service providers, health insurance companies, health education institutions, healthcare publishers and other stakeholders. It also has representation of small & medium hospitals and nursing homes. NATHEALTH aims to help build a better and healthier future for both rural and urban India.

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