Updated: February 2, 2022 7:52:18 pm
Several health sector professionals expressed disappointment after the Union Budget was presented in Parliament Tuesday and said the government failed to deliver in the healthcare sector despite Covid-19.
In a press note issued by the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD), forum coordinator Rajiv Nath expressed “deep disappointment and anguish over the Union Budget 2022 giving cold shoulder again to the Indian Medical Device Industry and nothing laudable for the healthcare”.
Nath was quoted as saying, “We were expecting the government to move forward on promised reforms and anticipated conducive measures to boost domestic manufacturing of medical devices. It is frustrating that against our expectations, the government has not included any measures to help end the 80-85% import dependence forced upon India and an ever-increasing import bill of over Rs 46,000 crore and promoting growth of the Indian Medical Device industry other than repeating last year’s assurance to end custom exemptions of products that can be made in India.”
He added, “Sadly the Union Budget 2022 speech has no strategic stated measures to boost domestic manufacturing. These are the same domestic manufacturers, when imports got disrupted during Covid-19 crisis, the government relied heavily on to meet the rising demand of essential Covid items for the country pushing the Indian medical devices sector to become self-reliant.”
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According to Nath, the Indian Medical Devices Industry’s expectations were that of predictable tariff policy, graded increase of custom duty to 10-15% from current zero to 7.5%, reduced GST on 18% where being applied to 12% as Medical Devices are not luxury goods.
Nath’s statement added, “We had been hoping that this will be a Make in India push budget for an Atmanirbhar Bharat and though the Finance Minister has highlighted the need to support the manufacturing sector, we, the Indian Medical Device Industry are disheartened not to notice any changes in custom duty as done for other sectors and are very hopeful that the fine print of the Union Budget would have possibly acted upon our recommendations on a predictable tariff policy for a Make in India push for a phased manufacturing plan for components and finished medical devices and allocations for testing infrastructure as well as for Med Tech Parks and Cluster developments.”
He further said, “Supporting policies are needed so that Indian Medical Devices Industry can make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for common masses, aim to place India among the Top five medical devices manufacturing hubs worldwide and help end the 80-85% import dependence forced upon us and an ever-increasing import bill of over Rs 46,000 crore.”
“The only positive announcement was on public procurement by allowing 75% prompt payments and bringing in a weighted price preference on account of quality which is especially critical in healthcare related medical devices,” added Nath.
Dr Bharat Gadhvi, president of Ahmedabad Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association expressed disappointment and said, “They (Union government) have not given any importance to healthcare. They should have taken care of some of the demands such as with respect to the efficiency of the public sector insurance companies and some specific schemes for diagnostics. Overall, they have not looked at healthcare at all.”
Ahmedabad-based gastroenterologist Dr Manish Bhatnagar and proprietor of Icon Hospital also rued the fact that the Budget does not incentivise small and medium hospitals in any way and said it is “high time that healthcare is given primacy as an industry”.
“The last two years have been brutal for these small and medium hospitals and that has been left unaddressed and could have been addressed under schemes related to MSMEs. In spite of the pandemic, healthcare spending is still less than three per cent of the GDP. The government will have to look at providing some relief to small and medium hospitals. As much as 60 per cent of the healthcare in the private sector in this country is delivered by small and medium hospitals,” said Dr Bhatnagar.
Dr Bhatnagar also advocated that spending on public health by the government must go up given what was seen during the pandemic. He said, “The public sector did an immense job during the crisis and it should be further beefed up. They were understaffed, under-resourced and criminally overworked. Instead of rewarding them for their work, you are stepping back and cutting down on the funds.”
Echoing Nath’s point on duties levied on medical devices, Dr Bhatnagar added that the Budget should have also considered cutting down import duties on “life-saving equipment”.
“During the pandemic, we have paid import duties on oxygen concentrators and ventilators. Why can’t we reduce the GST to 0% on essential drugs and medical supplies. It will also bring down the cost of delivery of healthcare,” pointed out Dr Bhatnagar.
Ajay Tandon, MD at Ahmedabad-based Veeda Clinical Research Ltd lauded incentives provided to sunrise industries within healthcare such as pharmaceutical research and genomics.
Tandon said, “The incentivisation measures announced for sunrise industries, which include genomics and pharmaceutical research and development, will augment our national capacities in these sectors. Encouraging collaboration among academia, industry and public institutions and the push for Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission are strong measures to aggregate our national resources for accelerating innovation in drug development and access to universal health in our country.”
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