The primary objective in the pandemic period should be to create new infrastructure in hospitals, diagnostic labs and home care, NATHEALTH, the Healthcare Federation of India, said in its recommendations for the Union Budget 2022-23.

Experts said investment in healthcare was required to create an ecosystem to accelerate the approval process for global innovation around COVID-19. It is required to fill the long-term and short-term structural gaps and fast-track revival of the healthcare sector. 

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According to Shravan Subramanyam, Senior Vice-President, NATHEALTH, and Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare, the pandemic has brought about a radical shift in the way we look at medical emergencies and has exposed the structural gaps in our health system. Healthcare is under-served and under-consumed. Only investments can help us create  inclusive and resilient medical infrastructure.

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NATHEALTH has sought release of sectoral payment dues to free up the working capital for investments in critical care and lifesaving equipment. Collaborative efforts from the public and private sectors are important to move towards universal healthcare coverage.

Experts urged the government to increase  healthcare expenditure above 2.5% of the GDP and to extend the National Health Protection Scheme to all migrant workers.

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According to Debajit Sensharma, Group CFO, Paras Healthcare,  healthcare funding needed subsidized loans, making CSR investment a tax-deductible expense and allocating land for new hospitals.

The government should allocate a budget to add trauma centres in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs) because these involve high financial costs. India has a young workforce but with dropping fertility rates and increasing mutations, there is expected to be a spike in healthcare expenses over the next decades.

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Deloitte India recommended reintroducing tax holidays for rural hospitals with the flexibility to select beneficial years and viability gap funding by the government for setting up hospitals in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. The firm also recommended a weighted deduction of expenses on skill development in the healthcare sector. This would help to overcome the shortage of medical manpower in the country and achieve the WHO-recommended doctor-patient ratio of 1:1,000 by 2024.