Dr. Vijayabhaskaran, Executive Director, Kauvery Hospital, Bengaluru & Hosur is sharing his views on the interim budget 2024 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
The Indian Government’s 2024 interim union budget for the healthcare sector underscores a multi-faceted approach towards enhancing healthcare education, broadening coverage, and emphasizing preventive measures. The initiative to establish more medical colleges by leveraging existing hospital infrastructures aligns with global best practices, similar to the integration seen in teaching hospitals in the US, where clinical settings offer robust training grounds for medical students. This model fosters a blend of academic knowledge and practical experience, crucial for producing well-rounded healthcare professionals.
But to effectively manage the primary healthcare needs and address the shortage at the specialty level, it’s essential to consider strategies beyond just increasing the number of medical colleges. For instance, India faces a near 80% shortage of surgeons, physicians, gynecologists, and pediatricians in rural community health centers. Specialist doctors often prefer urban settings or overseas opportunities due to better infrastructure, resources, and professional growth prospects.
The govt should explore adopting some of these strategies to address this imbalance
1. Incentivizing Rural Service: Offering financial incentives, housing, and opportunities for professional development for doctors serving in rural and underserved areas could help attract more specialists to these regions.
2. Enhanced Telemedicine Services: Leveraging telemedicine can help bridge the gap in specialist care in remote areas. This could involve setting up tele-consultation services that connect specialists in urban centers with patients in rural areas and can also help create younger entrepreneurs in tier twos and rural areas.
3. Focused Training Programs: Developing training programs specifically designed for rural healthcare needs could help prepare specialists willing to work in these settings. This might include training in a broader range of skills to manage a variety of conditions in resource-limited settings.
4. Public-Private Partnerships: Encouraging partnerships between the government and private sector can lead to the development of healthcare infrastructure in underserved areas, making them more attractive places for specialists to work.
5. Regulatory Reforms: Simplifying the process for medical professionals trained abroad to practice in India could help alleviate the shortage of specialists.
Ayushman Bharat Expansion
The expansion of Ayushman Bharat to include all ASHA workers, Anganwadi Workers, and Helpers under its healthcare cover is a commendable move towards ensuring a healthier workforce at the grassroots level of healthcare delivery. Ayushman Bharat has already made significant strides by operationalizing over 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) across India, providing comprehensive primary healthcare services. This initiative has seen remarkable progress, with millions benefiting from screenings for non-communicable diseases and tele-consultations. With a proven and well-established system Ayushman Bharat can further strengthen its primary healthcare framework, ensuring early detection and management of diseases at the community level.