Several healthcare professionals expressed disappointment after the Union budget was presented to parliament on Tuesday and said the government had failed to deliver on its promises in the healthcare sector despite Covid-19.
In a press release issued by the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD), forum coordinator Rajiv Nath expressed “deep disappointment and anguish over the Union Budget 2022 which is once again chilling India’s medical device industry and nothing to commend for healthcare”.
Nath reportedly said: “We expected the government to move forward with the promised reforms and provide favorable measures to boost domestic manufacturing of medical devices. It is frustrating that, against our expectations, the government has not included any measures to help end the 80-85% import dependency imposed on India and an ever-increasing import bill of more than Rs 46,000 crore and to promote the growth of the Indian medical device industry. than repeating last year’s assurance to end customs exemptions for products that can be made in India.
He added: “Unfortunately, the 2022 Union Budget Speech does not contain any stated strategic measures to boost domestic manufacturing. These are the same domestic manufacturers, when imports were halted during the Covid-19 crisis, on which the government relied heavily to meet the growing demand for essential Covid items for the country, pushing the Indian sector of medical devices to become autonomous.
According to Nath, the Indian medical device industry’s expectations were for a predictable tariff policy, a gradual increase in tariffs to 10-15% from the current zero to 7.5%, a reduction of 18% GST when applied to 12% because medical devices are not luxury goods.
Nath’s statement added: “We were hoping this would be a Make in India push budget for an Atmanirbhar Bharat and although the finance minister stressed the need to support the manufacturing sector, we the industry of medical devices, we are discouraged not to notice any change in tariffs as for other sectors and we very much hope that the fine print of the Union budget would have eventually followed up on our recommendations on a predictable tariff policy for a manufacturing campaign in India in favor of a phased manufacturing plan for components and finished medical products. devices and allocations for test infrastructures as well as for the developments of Med Tech Parks and Clusters.
He further said, “Supporting policies are needed for the Indian medical device industry to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable to the common masses, aim to place India among the top five centers of medical device manufacturing globally and help end the 80-85% import dependency forced on us and an ever-increasing import bill of over Rs 46,000 crore.
“The only positive announcement was for public procurement by allowing 75% prompt payments and introducing a weighted price preference due to quality, which is particularly critical in healthcare-related medical devices,” Nath added.
Dr Bharat Gadhvi, Chairman of the Association of Hospitals and Nursing Homes of Ahmedabad, expressed his disappointment and said: ‘They (the Union Government) have given no importance to healthcare. They should have taken care of some of the requirements such as the efficiency of public sector insurance companies and some specific diagnostic programs. Overall, they didn’t look at health care at all.
Ahmedabad-based gastroenterologist, Dr. Manish Bhatnagar and owner of Icon Hospital, also lamented that the budget does not in any way incentivize small and medium-sized hospitals and said it was “high time that health care take precedence as an industry”.
“The past two years have been brutal for these small and medium hospitals and this has not been resolved and could have been resolved through MSME-related programs. Despite the pandemic, health spending still represents less than 3% of GDP. The government will have to consider relieving small and medium-sized hospitals. As much as 60% of private sector healthcare in this country is provided by small and medium-sized hospitals,” Dr Bhatnagar said.
Dr Bhatnagar also advocated that government public health spending must increase given what has been seen during the pandemic. He said: “The public sector has done an immense job during the crisis and it should be further strengthened. They lacked personnel, resources and criminal overwork. Instead of rewarding them for their work, you step back and cut funds.
Echoing Nath’s point on duties levied on medical devices, Dr Bhatnagar added that the budget should also have considered reducing import duties on “life-saving equipment”.
“During the pandemic, we paid import duties on oxygen concentrators and ventilators. Why can’t we reduce the GST to 0% on essential drugs and medical supplies. It will also reduce the cost of health care delivery,” Dr. Bhatnagar pointed out.
Ajay Tandon, MD of Veeda Clinical Research Ltd, based in Ahmedabad, hailed the incentives provided to burgeoning industries in health, such as pharmaceutical research and genomics.
Tandon said, “The incentives announced for emerging industries, which include research and development in genomics and pharmaceuticals, will increase our national capabilities in these sectors. Encouraging collaboration between academia, industry and public institutions and promoting the Ayushman Bharat digital mission are strong steps to pool our national resources to accelerate innovation in drug development and access to universal health in our country.