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Nand Kishore Singh, chairman of the 15th Finance Commission. States in South India have claimed that the state revenue sharing formula in 15th Finance Commission’s terms of reference favours their North Indian counterparts. Photo: HT
Nand Kishore Singh, chairman of the 15th Finance Commission. States in South India have claimed that the state revenue sharing formula in 15th Finance Commission’s terms of reference favours their North Indian counterparts. Photo: HT

Public health spending needs to go up: Finance Commission chief NK Singh

  • NK Singh also said that the Centre should ensure health facilities at the primary level and private investments could play a role at other levels

NEW DELHI : India’s public health spending needs to go up significantly over the next few years to cover the gaps in health facilities, especially in the most vulnerable states, NK Singh, chairman of the Fifteenth Finance Commission (FFC) said on Wednesday.

FFC, which has given its report to the President earlier this month advising how to share tax revenue with states for the FY22-26 period has also made recommendations about the need for reprioritising public spending to fix the creaky health infrastructure exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. FFC report also makes recommendations about performance incentives to states in several reform areas.

Singh said on Wednesday at the Asia Health 2020 event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that the endeavour should be to raise public spending from 0.95% of GDP to 2.5% of GDP by 2024 by the Centre and states.

Singh also said that the Centre should ensure health facilities at the primary level and private investments could play a role at other levels. “The government is dutybound to address the issue of health deficiency at the level of municipal corporations, village panchayats and primary health centres. Private sector participation can be at other levels of specialty where they are better placed given their innovative skills," said Singh.

Singh’s emphasis on health infrastructure comes at a time hospitals are under pressure and states are experimenting with local lockdown restrictions to fight back the coronavirus. Normalisation of economic activities and availability of a vaccine are considered key to the sustainability of economic recovery.

Singh suggested regulatory changes such as broadening the scope of the MBBS course and said that the government needs to have a working relationship with the private sector in health care.

For last few years, Indian government has been pushing for Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the healthcare space. Experts on the panel also called for more funds for healthcare under PPP. “We need to create sustainable models of healthcare in Asia and South Asia we hope the governments will make higher allocations towards healthcare and move towards PPP," said Suneeta Reddy, Chairperson – Asia Health 2020, Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals.

Citing an example of the PPP, Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said that India adopted a three-pronged approach to tackle covid-19 pandemic. “We strengthened the health systems by building on past efforts, by relying on current strategies, by deploying new technology, by strengthening existing partnerships and forging new partnerships," said Bhushan adding that union government also too the digital initiatives help in fight against covid-19. Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi Group CEO Fortis Healthcare said that private sector can only compliment the efforts of the public sector and not replace it.

Anticipating higher number of covid-19 cases with the ongoing festival season, Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Council on Healthcare and Chairman and Managing Director, Medanta - The Medicity said the situation will need more collaboration between government and private healthcare stakeholders.

“Lockdown measures undertaken helped contain the spread of covid-19 as India was underprepared with beds, technology and Personal protective equipment (PPE). The Indian industry has promptly responded and repurposed their industrial might," said Trehan.

Similarly, Dr Devi Shetty Chairman Narayana Health during the session highlighted the need for financial intermediaries in healthcare. “Within the next 5-7 years India should be able to offer affordable and accessible healthcare to 1.3 billion of its population," he said.

Expressing concern for the disparity in payments among medical professionals, Dr Randeep Guleria Chairman, CII Public Health Council and Director of All India Institute Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi emphasized on the need for having quality and uniform medical education across the country. “This will help in optimum utilization of manpower in the public and the private sector," he said.

CII Asia Health 2020 being held from 18 November to 20th November will also see Experts from USA, UK, Singapore, Israel, Russia, Bhutan, Maldives, Angola, and many other countries coming together to deliberate on thought leadership and discuss on Health, Technology, Ayurveda and how these systems can ensure healthcare delivery across Asia through India. Imminent Dignitaries, national speakers and international speakers will be addressing knowledge sessions on a wide range of issues that cuts across the healthcare spectrum looking to develop a cohesive industry engagement with core cross sectoral policy dialogues and strategic exchanges.

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