Investment in healthcare workforce key to accelerating India’s economy: Experts

Experts at the ASSOCHAM illness to wellness summit discuss potential ways to strengthen the healthcare workforce to reduce the healthcare burden

Investment in healthcare workforce

ASSOCHAM Foundation for CSR, under the aegis of Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), one of the apex trade associations of India, on Wednesday kick-started the first edition of the awareness summit on Illness to Wellness in New Delhi.

The key objective of the two-day summit is to initiate a dialogue on promoting and building a New India-Healthy India’.

The first session on Day 1 of the summit saw a panel of distinguished experts discuss the possible ways to strengthen the healthcare workforce with the objective to ease the healthcare burden of the country.

In his address during the inaugural session, Guest of Honour Bhubaneswar Kalita, Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, said, “Making healthcare affordable, accessible and available to all can help us attain the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ensuring healthy life and promoting well-being for all age groups,”

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“Our main challenge is the lack of a diversified and qualified workforce and we must work towards improving the status quo as workforce is the soul of our healthcare system. There should also be a focus on improving women’s health for larger interest of families, communities and nation in order to reduce the burden on public healthcare infrastructure and spending.”

Sharing his thoughts during the inaugural session, Anil Rajput, Chairperson, ASSOCHAM National CSR Council, said, “India is at the cusp of an exciting and transformative time as it aims to reach $26 trillion in economic prosperity in its ‘Amrit Kaal’. I strongly believe that when the workforce is healthy and capable, our nation can achieve its full potential across all domains.

“The Government of India has also accorded topmost priority to it, making it a fundamental pillar for a Swastha and Samruddha Rashtra’. It is my firm conviction that India’s determined strides in the economic sphere can gain even greater momentum if the health of its citizenry remain sound. This will ensure that the wealth follows and our dream of a healthy and wealthy nation can become a reality.”

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G.C. Khilnani, Chairman, PSRI Institute of Pulmonary, Critical and Sleep Medicine, and Former Professor and Head, Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi, said, “The preparedness of our health infrastructure got exposed during the Covid pandemic. Despite having 95,000 ICU beds and 48,000 ventilators, which seem like a reasonable number, India suffered greatly during the pandemic.

“Although ramping up the infrastructure is important, outcomes will not improve if adequate attention is not paid to enhancing the quality of health workforce, especially the staff nurses. Healthcare workers also matter if we wish to improve the outcome. The Indian healthcare system has improved a lot, but more needs to be done for the workforce.”

Joining the session virtually, S.K. Sarin, Senior Professor, Department of Hepatology, and Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi, said, “Creating a healthier generation is not doctors’ effort alone; it is a team effort. Instead of following a pyramid structure, we should adopt a bottom-up approach, starting from villages. We should utilise ASHA workers to better document and understand the healthcare needs of our citizens.”

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T.S. Kler, Chairman, Fortis Heart and Vascular Institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, and Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, said, “I am deeply concerned about the shortage of trained nurses in the country. Policies should be in place to ensure decent pay packages and respect for these crucial healthcare workers. It is also important to reduce the healthcare burden of the country by allowing euthanasia. Introducing policies related to mandatory insurance, minimum health curriculum in schools and decreasing reservation should also be considered.”

The inaugural edition of the Assocham Awareness Summit has a goal to promote widespread knowledge about various health-related concerns for the betterment of everyone’s well-being. The summit will feature more than 60 distinguished physicians, specialists, and wellness professionals from both India and abroad, who will share their insights on various topics across nine sessions.

These sessions will delve into a range of areas, including healthcare workforce strengthening, nutrition, women’s health, mental health, sickle cell diseases, Ayush, elderly care and the digital healthcare landscape.