Union Budget 2023-24 – Transformational for Healthcare Sector

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The 2023-24 budget incorporated one of the most fundamental changes in healthcare required to transform the sector. The finance minister reported that the Union Budget 2023-24 has included the establishment of 157 new nursing colleges in co-location with the existing medical colleges. This move showcases the government’s focus on transforming the healthcare sector by first ensuring that there are sufficient frontline medical professionals in the hospitals. Furthermore, the increase in nursing colleges will help bridge the gap relating to the number of nurses required per bed as India continues to become the preferred healthcare destination. In addition, the providers are now focusing on creating healthcare facilities in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well.

Further, the finance minister announced the government’s mission of eliminating sickle cell anemia by 2047. Once launched, the initiative will allow for universal screening of 7 crore people between 0 and 40 years in affected tribal areas. To enable these initiatives, the health sector was allocated Rs. 89,155 crore in the 2023-24 union budget. Notably, this allocation was an increase of approximately 13% over Rs. 79,145 crore allocated in the 2022-23 union budget. Of the allocated Rs. 89,155 crore, Department of Health and Family Welfare would receive Rs. 86,175 crore and Department of Health Research would receive Rs. 2,980 crore.

The increased funding towards the healthcare sector will also enable the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to advance its facilities. This advancement will enable public and private medical college faculty members to undertake research within the facilities and also offer access to the private sector research and development teams. The access by these diverse teams will encourage more collaborative research and innovation in healthcare. This indicates the budget’s futuristic focus on medical research, collaborative research and research and development, which are core to enhanced care delivery.

The AYUSH ministry also received an increased budget allocation of 28% which enabled it to receive Rs. 3,647 crore from the previous year’s Rs. 2,845 crore. Further, the Department of Health and Family received an Rs. 86,175 crore allocation to enable it meet its current goals in promoting healthcare. Funds were also allocated towards establishing 22 new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where the ministry set aside Rs. 6,835 crore for the project.

There was also an increase in budget allocation for the National Health Mission, which was allocated Rs. 28,974 crore in the previous years and Rs. 29,085 in the current 2023-24 budget. Furthermore, the National Digital Health Mission received an increase in budget allocation from the previous year’s Rs. 140 crore to the current Rs. 341 crore. A similar occurrence was evident in the National Tele Mental Health Program, where the budget allocation was increased from the previous year’s Rs. 140 crore to the current Rs. 133 crore. There was also an up-scaling of the funds allocated for autonomous bodies as they went up from Rs. 10,348 crore in the previous budgetary allocation to the current Rs. 17,322 crore.

The budget also focused on Pharma Innovation, indicating the government’s acknowledgment of the current technological advancements in healthcare. The finance minister reported that the government would roll out a new program to promote pharmaceutical research and innovation. Further, the government will encourage industry players to invest in research and development in the established priority areas including innovative technologies in healthcare.

The Indian Healthcare Sector has continued to grow at a significant rate through effective budgetary allocations and promoting collaborations. The 2023-24 budget highlights the government’s focus on two core drivers of improved healthcare: increasing the number of trained medical professionals and investing in research and development. There is also a notable increase in allocations, indicating the commitment towards a more efficient healthcare system.

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