Dr Minnie Bodhanwala
Wadia Hospitals

Together we can envisage a great future for healthcare services for our nation

The field of healthcare in India is rapidly advancing, and at the same time the gap between supply and demand for healthcare services in India, especially for public health, is also rapidly increasing. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has burdened the entire healthcare market across the globe, and once things are back to normal, there will be a stronger need for innovative practices to overcome challenges faced in the healthcare sector collectively for long-term growth and sustainability.

On budgetary allocation in healthcare.
In the last few months, we have seen many national headlines related to healthcare, especially since the spread of the COVID-19. These issues have raised red flags throughout the country on both, the availability of infrastructure and manpower in our healthcare system. Thus, we not only need to strengthen these gaps but also regularly intervene and monitor them from patient safety, quality, and affordability points of view. The Budget should focus on both these aspects to improve the healthcare for the nation.

There has to be a provision and a policy for innovation in healthcare, which focus on new-age companies and technologies. Artificial intelligence will play a huge role in healthcare in future; the government should invest in improving healthcare by use of technology. Such initiatives will increase the scale of healthcare across the masses at a very affordable cost.

A stronger approach toward preventive care will help millions of Indians who are unaware about the benefits of preventive health. A scheme for people to invest in their own fitness with some incentives will help to improve the overall landscape of healthcare and fitness in India. Likewise, a new and improved system for universal emergency care is also needed throughout the country.

The government should make use of technology to support the idea of providing basic life support to any individual in a situation of emergency.

The focus on affordable healthcare has to be more robust as seen in the current situation where a lot of reliance has to be on private players that the masses cannot afford. At the same time the affordable healthcare should come at quality in order to ensure more and more people avail it.

On your planned budgetary allocation for the fiscal year 2019-20, and what proportion of this is allotted for the procurement of medical equipment and devices.
We usually allocate 5–10 percent of our total budget toward procurement of medical equipment. Being a charitable hospital, we are also dependent on fundraising from our donors and well-wishers for supporting us with essential equipment.

On your vision for health and family welfare.
The vision is simple – providing quality and affordable healthcare for all. If we are able to get the basic things right, everything else will fall in place.

With so much of increasing complexity in the health needs of our people, the field of healthcare management becomes more and more challenging each day. Also, what makes this profession more challenging is a multitude of stakeholders and activities that are involved in running a healthcare organization like physicians and nurses, highly trained employees, ensuring various policies and procedures are compiled with as per norms, managing supplies, equipment, keeping pace with constantly evolving healthcare technology, etc. Being a people-oriented field, it is always necessary to maintain that balance between caring and the sustainability of the organization.

We are also concentrating on a lot of family focused and community initiatives in areas of malnutrition and other public health concerns, with a vision to have a disease free society.

On monitoring the quality of private healthcare.
The overall demand for quality healthcare is tremendous throughout the country, and I feel all healthcare organizations should work toward achieving universal access to quality in healthcare in India. With National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare in place, and more and more healthcare organizations opting for accreditation, the quality of healthcare is being monitored to a great extent.

On public-private partnership in making healthcare a success.
It is very important. Our hospitals, Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital (established 1926) and the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children (established 1929), are the biggest examples for the same. The hospitals, which were started as a joint partnership between the Wadia family and the then government of Maharashtra and the Municipal Corporation, have helped millions of families for more than 90 years now.

On areas where government should invest to make healthcare available to all.
As it is rightly said investing in healthcare is investing in the growth of the nation, given the current situation and the lack of healthcare facility for the masses, the government clearly needs to invest more for public health infrastructure and research. There is a need to revisit our public health policy and come up with better solutions to ensure that there is efficient utilization of financial resources as well. There is still a huge gap between the private and public sector healthcare facilities, which needs to be addressed. Poverty alleviation schemes in the metros and cities are also much needed as the cluster of slums becomes a huge hurdle in public health of the nation.

Our human resources both medical and paramedical for public health are inadequate as well, there is a strong need to invest more in the training centers and better incentives for the public healthcare workforce.

In the current situation of Covid-19 we are learning a lot about the strengths and weakness of our system in addressing public health concerns, these learning’s should be utilized to amend our public health policies and plan the budgets accordingly. One such weakness, which has come forward in the current situation, is our surveillance capacity for natural disasters. The government definitely needs to increase the investment in surveillance capacity for communicable diseases and other natural disasters as well, to lower the burden on healthcare services during such situations. This is not the first and the last pandemic our country has seen, we need more focus and vigor in the healthcare sector collectively across all the sectors with special attention for the women and children, the elderly and disabled.

On the technology front, the need of the hour is to manufacture all healthcare needs, especially biomedical equipment in India. The Made in India campaign needs to be further strengthened for healthcare. This will help in making healthcare affordable for all, and increase job opportunities in India.

High taxes that are paid on consumables, equipment, etc., could be reduced to make healthcare more affordable for the masses. Additional subsidies to healthcare providers for utilities like power, etc., will also help to make care more affordable for the masses.

Increasing the expenditure on healthcare, and its utilization by implementing schemes efficiently, will help in increasing the health of population at large and reviving and strengthening our economy even further.

On policy interventions that the healthcare sector in the state needs to align with the healthcare objectives at large at the national level.
First, there is a need to identify the gaps between the interventions at state level and the national policy; once the gaps are identified, then only corrective and preventive actions could be planned for the same. Higher budgetary allocations and realistic policies will further help the cause of achieving universal healthcare needs across the nation. There is a need to draft a new path forward in 2020 to transform healthcare delivery with a focus on people, process, and technology across the communities we serve and achieve greater heights for the hospitals. It is also important we define a clear framework for the centre and the state government with clear roles and responsibilities and standard operating protocols to implement the same. This will be a better approach to align the healthcare objective across the nation.

Anything else you would like to add.
These times are tough for the nation especially the healthcare industry who is at the forefront of it. The pressure on most of us is tremendous but we must not forget working in healthcare is a privilege that we must continue to earn every day and build on the success of many predecessors.

My message to the industry stakeholders is that each one of us should focus on adding sustainable value to the healthcare delivery system. In addition to exceptional growth, we should look forward to sharing more stories of operational success and its impact on the community at large. We should closely work with market-led functions for medical management, stakeholder relations, data and analytics, and finance to ensure sharing of best practices, expeditious resource deployment, and reporting consistency.

I am very positive and hopeful that together we can envisage a great future for the healthcare services in our country as we re-imagine and transform healthcare together.

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