Providing a shot in the arm for private domestic investment, the finance minister has deciphered the math behind the stimulus package to ensure that agriculture, business and manufacturing are back on track as we deal with the virus. The lion’s share has been carved out to help MSMEs survive and thrive, bringing about a positive impact on the overall industry sentiment. But if there is anything that the pandemic has taught us, it is the need to have better healthcare systems and our economic revival will depend a lot on how we strengthen our health infrastructure.
The stimulus package has zeroed in on the need to improve our public health systems. Towards this, the Centre has committed Rs 15,000 crore for health-related measures so far. While healthcare infrastructure and service strengthening will be top priority for the government; the other measures announced include infectious diseases hospital blocks for all districts, and the strengthening of the lab network and surveillance apart from encouraging research. The objectives behind these announcements are clear: build capacity and prepare India for any future pandemic; boost digital health adoption in India; and bridge the current gaps in the health system.
Given its significance in the current environment, the healthcare sector must be made a key part of the national agenda by ensuring that all policies hereafter must place the most vulnerable at its center. At the core of a blueprint must rest the belief that development will be guided by a philosophy that benefits the most vulnerable. Citizens need better access and availability of health infrastructure – if anything the pandemic has underscored the need to address fundamental issues like shortage of doctors and health care professionals, ensure access to facilities for all and build affordability. To allow access to healthcare to the masses, we need a ‘national fund for healthcare’ that will not only reduce the cost of capital and but also bring down the viability gap. Public investment would also be required to set up a data-driven community healthcare surveillance system that can be used for predictive analytics and preventive interventions.
Incentivizing the setting up of healthcare facilities by leveraging public-private-partnerships (PPP) would be key to building scale across five key healthcare services like hospitals, primary care, diagnostics, medical colleges, and digital clinics or telemedicine. A ‘National Health Infrastructure Development Fund’ could be one way to help boost the private health sector especially in Tier-II & III cities.