Focus on Infra, skilling will help but needs more push for healthcare: Industry Experts

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The Union Budget’s focus on infrastructure, logistics, skilling will help Healthcare sector but it deserves more attention in Government outlays, says Medical Technology Association of India (MTaI), which represents leading research-based medical technology companies with large footprint in manufacturing and Healthcare worker training in India.

Pavan Choudary, Chairman MTaI, said, “A 35.4% increase in CAPEX is a significant boost, even if we were to discount some of this delta which would not apply. We do hope that the benefit is also received by the healthcare sector which is in need of a big boost. The COVID pandemic also highlighted the scarcity of skilled HCW at all levels of care. We hope that through the plans to reinvigorate the National Skill Qualification Framework and launch digital ecosystem for skilling, we will be able to bridge the skill gap.”

Sanjay Bhutani, Director, MTaI, said, “Overall, while the government has not penalized enterprise further by keeping the Income Taxes constant, perhaps more could have been done for the immediate short-term relief in the middle income sector. Similarly, with the GST collections being robust, it was an opportunity to correct the high tax regime for medical devices and zero rate the Healthcare Services that would have brought immediate reduction in the patient costs burden. These have been long standing demands from the sector which are crucial for the healthcare infrastructure of the country. While the duties and cess have been reduced for some devices, the duties have been enhanced for other medical devices like Dialyzers, X-rays and Hearing Devices.”

Further on analyzing the budget, Meenakshi Nevatia, Director, MTaI stated that “Budget has announced some positive moves including the National Digital Health Ecosystem and the National Tele Mental Health programme which will serve our people in India and the health sector well in the medium and long term. However, the short-term relief that the industry is in need of has not been dealt with including the much needed withdrawal of the health cess and the relook at customs duties which continue to be much higher than in all our neighboring countries. Also, it remains unclear how much of the capital allocated will focus on the direct expansion of the health infrastructure particularly in Tier 2 & 3 cities which is a real need of the hour”.

On the national Tele Mental Health programme Choudary adds, “MTaI welcomes this move especially since India finds itself in the upper most rungs of the list of most depressed countries in the world; as per a report by WHO. Though the cases have only risen during the pandemic, due to the stigma attached to mental ailments most Indians hesitate to be seen in the psychiatrist’s chamber. Hence, development of a tele-mental health centres will ensure that the patients can seek consultations in privacy.”

On PM Gatishakti announcement, Sandeep Makkar, added that the “priority investments in infrastructure, logistics, energy and IT combined with increased funding for Production Linked Incentive schemes, medical device parks, and emphasis on upskilling and reskilling of the workforce is a strong positive signal. This will likely boost manufacturing of medical devices in India in the mid-term and significantly help reduce the capital and labor productivity deficit vs. the neighboring competitors. This has the potential to attract further investment, increase productivity of Indian companies by a factor of at least two to three times and make India more competitive globally.”

“The Healthcare sector deserves more importance in Government outlays, not only in light of the lessons learned during the two Covid waves and to prepare for resilience in future but also to ensure organic growth of the industry and realize its true potential” concluded Bhutani.