Reduction of duty on medical equipment, tax holidays for new hospitals and universal access to quality healthcare are among the major demands of the medical fraternity here in Pune from the 2016-17 Budget. They also want budgetary allocation for health raised from 1.1 per cent to at least three per cent of the GDP by 2022.
Dr Avinash Bhutkar, president of the Indian Medical Association’s Pune chapter, said the recommendations for the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by the Planning Commission pertain to critical areas such as health financing, health infrastructure, skilled human resources, access to medicines and vaccines, institutional reforms and community participation. The Commission estimates that 3.30 lakh crore would have to be spent in 12th five-year plan (2012-2017) to achieve the goal of UHC by 2022.
‘Public expenditure on health in India among lowest in the world’
“An important factor for India’s poor health status is its low level of public spending on health, which is one of the lowest in the world. In 2007, according to WHO’s statistics in per capita terms, India ranked 164 in a list of 191 countries from 1990-91 to 2009-10, during which its public spending varied from 0.9 to 1.2 per cent of the GDP. The government should increase the public expenditure on health from the current level of 1.1% GDP to at least 2.5% by the end of the 12th plan and to at least 3% of GDP by 2022,” Bhutkar said.
Manisha Sanghvi, executive director of Sancheti Group of hospitals and former president of the Hospital Association of Pune, said there was a need to focus on enhancing health care facilities on public-private partnership models. “The focus should also be on preventive health and a comprehensive health care screening programme. There needs to more specific insurance policies for covering patients so that out-of-the-pocket expenses can be minimised,” she said.
‘Cut import duties’
“Reduction of duty on medical equipment is our major demand,” said Dr P K Grant, managing director of Ruby Hall Clinic. “It is currently 20 per cent, which is extremely high. Hospitals have stopped importing good quality equipment now,” he said. Grant said that duty on implants of stents and knees should be reduced to zero to bring down the cost of operations and urged that tax holidays for new hospitals should be extended for 10 years from the time of construction.
Dr Dilip Sarda, former president of IMA’s Maharashtra chapter, hoped that a provision for setting up 100 new government medical colleges would be made in the budget along with giving incentives to doctors to practise in rural areas, where the ratio of doctors to the population is currently 1: 1700.
‘Non-communicable disease burden’
According to Dr Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of Partnership to Fight Chronic diseases (PFCD), a global not-for-profit organisation working in the country, this year’s budget will be crucial in terms of vast expectations among stakeholders in health sector. “Addressing the issue of non-communicable diseases is of paramount importance as the disease burden has increased to a whopping 53 per cent in the past several years,” Dr Thorpe said.