$6.5 bn allocated for budget hospitals: Ambika Soni

$6.5 bn allocated for budget hospitals: Ambika Soni

New Delhi: Lack of infrastructure in providing primary healthcare in India s a cause of growing concern. Minister for tourism, Ambika Soni said a total investment of $6.5 billion is in the pipeline for medical tourism industry in the country for setting up affordable hospitals and budget hotels for patients’ relatives.

While talking at the 4th India Health Summit - Healthcare Engagement: Strategies & Partnerships, organized by CII in association with the India Healthcare Federation (IHCF) she disclosed that so far three international parties had evinced interest in setting up 1,000-bed facilities in Delhi and NCR.

More than one lakh budget rooms and 50,000 star accommodation rooms are likely to come up soon. Commenting on the problems faced by the medical tourism industry, Soni said, “The biggest deterrent for foreign investors is the unavailability of a single window clearance system." The government is working towards making a system in which investing in India becomes easier, she assured.

Legal implications were another sore issue faced mainly by doctors, especially when treating foreign tourists. Hospital management needs to be more transparent and must ensure that profile of doctors are easily available.

According to Dr Pratap C Reddy, chairman Apollo Hospitals Group, “the biggest challenge for India is to make healthcare available to a billion people. Indian healthcare has matured to international standards and continuous innovation in new methodology has brought in professionalism. There is now need to increase nursing capabilities before a crisis emerges in terms of shortage. The government must drive numbers from the existing four million to 30 million."

Basic research in India is also a critical area of concern and there is need to integrate alternative healthcare systems with current medical care for achieving good health for all. “We need to invest $60-70 billion over the next five years in hospitals and healthcare education to expand this sector and reach out to as many people as possible," said Dr Reddy.

In the last 10 years, nearly 80% of the investment in healthcare education has come from private sector and it’s time the government started making investment in the sector.

Growing medical tourism calls for improved medical infrastructure which can in turn provide new business opportunity for stakeholders.

Dr Naresh Trehan, President, IHCF said the government and private sector together must come out with an effective public-private sector partnership model to take healthcare to villagers.

Healthcare access to rural areas remains a sore point despite India’s great economic growth. By 2012 India would have to create over 750,000 hospital beds and 100,000 doctors.

There is severe manpower shortage; more medical and nursing colleges are needed and legalizing and institutionalizing qualified para-medics is vital to deal with the shortage issue.

Opening up health insurance, freeing up medical education to encourage private investment; incentivizing domestic medical devices manufacturers; facilitating private-public partnership for efficient use of public infrastructure; having in place a regulatory framework for care delivery and infrastructure status for healthcare would help in pushing up healthcare services for all.

A suitable financing and delivery model for healthcare would also help meet healthcare requirements of both urban and rural India.