Budget expectation: Sops and support measures to boost emergency care for the rural poor
Chennai, Jan 2022
While COVID19 has exposed the gaps in our healthcare system, one weakest link that has been crying for support is emergency and ICU care in rural areas. We all know that quality ICU services are barely available in rural areas across the states in the country. Any patient from a village or remote area to reach district headquarters for emergency care takes about 1-1.5 hrs (120 min on average). So that golden hour is lost for emergency patients and doctors are unable to save the lives of those people. Even district headquarters in several states don’t have quality ICU care support.
About 70 per cent of India’s population lives in rural areas. But only 30 per cent of ICU infrastructure is available in these areas, while the remaining 70 per cent is in metros and cities. So, there is a compelling need to support the establishment of emergency care services in rural areas,” said Dr Raja Amarnath, Managing Director of CIPACA, a 6-year-old healthcare organisation that has been pioneering in the establishment and management of state-of-the-art ICUs in rural hospitals.
The Government has to come forward to support hospitals and healthcare organisations that are building ICU care in rural areas by cutting down the taxes and restrictions.
It is possible to set up ICU beds with ventilators and oxygen plants. But the key part in sustenance of ICU operations is the availability of trained doctors and paramedical staff. This is where organisations like CIPACA differentiates itself from others with its successful business model with global standards for managing ICU services in rural locations, he added.
As rural hospitals cannot charge fees like corporate or big hospitals in cities, levying the same level of taxes for rural emergency services in rural locations will not help in realising the goal of making available affordable quality emergency care for rural poor.
I would like to draw attention to the recent Niti Aayog report on emergency care that discussed the huge gaps in emergency care and the steps needed to provide quality emergency care.
Of course, we welcome the big steps by policy steps such as the PLI scheme for medical devices and promotion of bulk drug parks in line with Atmanirbhar Bharat. However, the current environment calls for providing affordable ICU healthcare for the entire populace, including rural poor.
We request the Union Finance Minister to consider tax cuts and funding support by way of guaranteed loans for rural emergency and ICU care organisations. Supporting new age ICU care organisations will complement the government’s efforts in boosting rural healthcare, said Dr Raja Amarnath.
In the recent past, the government and RBI have adequately demonstrated the kind of importance that the healthcare industry deserves and also came up with a host of support measures to fight the pandemic.
So, it is evident that healthcare is likely to be one of the focus points in the upcoming budget and we hope there will be higher allocation and sops for the sector as multiple waves of Covid19 have exposed the dire need of strengthening robust healthcare infrastructure in India.