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Government should increase health expenditure: Pranab Mukherjee

Posted on Jan 16, 07:33PM | IBNS

President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said he wants the government to increase the expenditure on health by at least 2.5pc of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the current level of 1.2pc by 2017.

Inaugurating an ASSOCHAM summit on "Curing the incurables: sharing of Innovations" here, Mukherjee said the public health system must be scaled up and strengthened across the nation.

"We also need to develop effective affordable models of healthcare for the ever increasing urban population and at the same time not ignore rural healthcare needs. The foundation of India's national health system must be strong, sensitive, efficient and modern," Mukherjee said.

"New technologies like Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can take a major role in improving healthcare delivery. The one solution is telemedicine- the remote diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients via videoconferencing or the internet," said Mukherjee.

While releasing the ASSOCHAM-HealthCursor Consulting Group publication on "Innovations in Healthcare", Mukherjee said that the government is also keen to continue to encourage private investment in the healthcare sector and develop Public Private Partnership (PPP) models to improve availability of universal healthcare services and provide healthcare financing options.

"There is also growing interest among the foreign players to enter India's healthcare sector through capital investment, technology tie-ups, and collaborative ventures segments, including diagnostics, medical equipment, big hospital chains, education and training," Mukherjee said.

"There is still no denying that the healthcare delivery gap is huge in India. It is estimated that 64pc of the poorest population in India become indebted every year to pay for the medical care they need. 85pc of the Indian workforce in the informal sector do not have any kind of insurance and medicare facilities and lack access to effective social protection schemes," he said.

During the summit, Prof. Samir K Brahmachari, Secretary, DSIR and DG-CSIR, said all major healthcare players are now targeting new segments such as primary care and diagnostic.

Demographis, health awareness and increasing capacity to spend are the new key drivers of the preventive healthcare segment in India, he said.

DR. B K Rao, Chairman, ASSOCHAM Knowledge Millennium Committee, said, "India is one of many countries facing severe shortage of trained medical professionals-including nurses, dentists, and administrators-but especially doctors.

"By the most recent data, the United States has 2.672 doctors per 1,000 people, and 3.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people. India, on the other hand, has a mere 0.599 doctors and 0.9 hospital beds per 1,000 people."

"India would need almost 2.4 million new doctors and over 2 million more hospital beds to reach the same proportions as the United States. These shortages have wide-ranging effects on both the local and the global level, and the potential to create a plethora of secondary problems.

"With the spiraling cost of healthcare across the world and especially in India, Consumers are looking for any assistance to reduce medical expenses and stay healthy," said Rao.

"India is grappling with the emergence of diseases such as AIDS as well as food- and water-borne illnesses. And as Indians live more affluent lives and adopt unhealthy western diets that are high in fat and sugar, the country is experiencing a rise in lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cancer, and diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions over the next 5-10 years," he said.

"Lifestyle diseases are expected to grow at a faster rate than infectious diseases in India, and to result in an increase in cost per treatment. So there is need to frugal approaches to innovation in healthcare which is particularly critical for the Indian medical technology industry to make modern care accessible, available and affordable to all," said Rao.