2021-22 Budget testimony to India's commitment to build stronger health system: Healthcare providers

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New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) Healthcare providers on Monday hailed the 2021-22 Union Budget, saying it provides the much-needed fillip to the health sector and is a testimony to India's commitment to not just fight back the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to build a stronger and resilient health system.

The government has proposed a budget outlay of Rs 2,23,846 crore for health and wellbeing in 2021-2022, an increase of 137 per cent from the previous year, with Rs 35,000 crore earmarked for COVID-19 vaccine in the upcoming fiscal.

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director WHO South-East Asia Region, said one of the greatest lessons this pandemic has taught the world is that health needs to be a priority.

'The thrust and focus to health in India's Budget announcement is a testimony to the country's commitment to not just fight back the COVID-19 pandemic, but to build a stronger and resilient health system. India has been demonstrating this.

'India has not only proactively and belligerently dealt with the pandemic, it has and continues to support countries in the South-East Asia Region and beyond providing essential medical supplies and now vaccines, to protect the vulnerable populations against the pandemic,' she said.

According to Professor K Srinath Reddy, the president of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), the Union Budget provides much needed fillip to health, sanitation, nutrition and pollution control.

All of these are key elements in promoting health and wellbeing of the population in a holistic manner, he said.

Primary healthcare, one of the most critical elements of healthcare provision in an efficient and equitable system, is now getting strengthened with even the previously neglected urban healthcare component receiving attention and resources, Reddy said.

'So, there is going to be addition of health and wellness centres not only in rural but also in urban areas. Disease prevention is also dependent on effective surveillance.

'Hence, strengthening of National Centres for Disease Control and its regional branches plus district-level surveillance systems and the provision for more virological testing laboratories, all of them will contribute to better pandemic preparedness and response,' he said.

Commenting on the Union Budget, Dr Prathap C Reddy, the chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group, said the COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented medical crisis and it underlined the importance of building a resilient healthcare infrastructure.

'Today, the finance minister said health was her first pillar and her announcements to develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems, greatly gladdened my heart. This ground-breaking focus on health which will provide access to medical care for all in our country, fuel job creation and boost economic momentum.' Reddy said.

'The allocation of Rs 35,000 crores for COVID-19 vaccines and more if required, makes our glorious nation stand tall as a model for the world,' he said.

Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, the Managing Director and CEO of Fortis Healthcare, said, 'The 137 per cent increase in the healthcare budget from last year is notable. Further, an infusion of Rs 35,000 crore for vaccine development and distribution, ensuring preventive health and frontline health and allied workers’ skills building along with surveillance on infectious building, reinforces Government’s assurance on public health programmes.' 'We feel that the steps are necessary to boost healthcare infrastructure and the private healthcare sector will continue to stand with India and support the Government initiatives,' he said. PTI PLB NSD NSD