Hospitals in rural areas should have been given infrastructure status

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01 February 2017

Dr S Gurushankar, chairman, Menkshi Mision Hospital

It is a positive Budget, with an overall thrust on rural areas and the underprivileged people. I would rate it seven out of ten. The creation of 5,000 new post-graduate seats annually and the announcement to encourage DNB courses in private hospitals is commendable and will help address the acute shortage of medical specialists.

The government's intention to work towards reducing the cost of medical devices is very positive. However, it is unclear how this will be achieved. I hope the customs duty on medical devices comes down as most of these are imported. This will bring down the cost of setting up a hospital.

Although the Budget addressed several areas positively, it has left some urgent needs unfulfilled. About 85 per cent of all hospitals in India are in the private sector. They are the ones largely dealing with non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, not government hospitals. It is time for the government to shift gears and start giving equal importance to non-communicable diseases.

It needs to come up with an action plan for these too, rather than a single-minded focus on communicable diseases like TB and leprosy. It is unfortunate that even seven decades after Independence, we are still struggling to eradicate communicable diseases.

The government did not announce a single incentive to start private hospitals in rural areas. It rightly focussed on affordable housing in the Budget, but isn't affordable healthcare important too for the masses? The lives of villagers are as important as those of city-dwellers. It is high time the Government started focussing on healthcare of people living beyond the cities.

There was nothing in the Budget to empower private healthcare players in rural areas. Hospitals in rural areas should have been given infrastructure status. A ten-year tax holiday for starting new hospitals in rural areas could have been given to incentivize healthcare entrepreneurs to venture beyond the cities.





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