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Rising to the challenge – Expectations in 2021

Over the period of last one year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had serious implications on almost all aspects related to human life. The pandemic has hit the world with the most baffling challenges of the century and has disrupted the way most of the industries function. Sweeping across the globe since last year, the responsibility to bring the world from a situation of crisis to stability, now greatly lies on the healthcare sector.

With the advent of the second wave of COVID-19 virus in India, it’s amply clear that the pandemic is here to stay for at least one more year. As the intermittent episodes of a severe surge in infection are being repeated once more, hospitals across the country are once again being faced with the overwhelming challenge to treat both the COVID and non-COVID patients across all specialties while ensuring that all safety protocols are being adhered to. Amid such a scenario, the arduous challenge to tackle the current situation requires adoption of innovate approaches that can deliver quick results and can effectively restrict the virus spread.

Acceleration of vaccination drive along with the increase in price cap for the vaccines
A two-pronged approach can be adopted by targeting to vaccinate at least 60 percent of all adult population in the country and at least 90 percent of the adult population in all major cities with more than 25 lakh population in the next six months.

Additionally, increasing the present pricing of the vaccine dose from `250 per dose to `1000 that should also include a government surcharge of `200 as it will allow them to further subsidize the cost of the vaccine for poor and will encourage aggressive participation of private healthcare providers.

Subsidizing the cost of manufacturing of medical infrastructure through long term tax incentives is another measure that can help in reducing the cost of consumables required to treat the COVID patients and ensure that they are affordable for all.

Incentivizing the doctors, paramedical staffs, and medical students working in government or charitable institute run COVID centers
As the crisis looms large, the depletion of our healthcare workforce is being felt more and more acutely. It is time for India to look for ways to incentivize its healthcare warriors like Indonesia, Malaysia, and China.

While the government has undertaken several positive initiatives such as, including the nationwide lionizing of healthcare workers as COVID-19 warriors, and the announcement of a `50 lakh insurance cover, but a lot more would be needed to encourage to rope in medical staff from all quarters.

Incentives like job reservations, lower interest rates on education loans for all medical students who are willing to work exclusively for the next one year in the government or charitable institute run COVID center can bolster our capacity to confront future stage of the pandemic.

Such measures can act as a healing touch for the COVID-19 warriors and will help in attracting a vast pool of talent from across the country.

Ramping up the physical infrastructure and encouraging voluntary participation of private players
Whether it was testing, tracing, manufacturing of vital drugs or quarantine and treatment of patients, the private sector rose up to every challenge presented in front of it during the entire duration of the pandemic.

Going forward, more emphasis should be laid on strengthening up of the physical healthcare infrastructure across preventive primary and tertiary healthcare systems to ensure that all mildly and moderately ill COVID patients are treated at COVID care centers and management of non-COVID patients is not hampered in case of the advent of third or fourth wave.

Furthermore, the government should also look at providing long term incentives to private healthcare providers to treat subsided COVID patients to encourage more voluntary participation sector.

With effective public and private collaboration our country has set benchmarks in research, treatment, and innovation during the pandemic. As we move forward in 2021, we will see more such collaborations arising from the learnings of COVID-19 that will help our country in emerging as the most preferred destination medical manufactures and treatment across the globe.


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