Made in India medical equipment can curb healthcare expenses

Doctors say it is time the Indian government changed policies to aid the healthcare industry

medical-equipment-700Close to 80% of medical equipment used in hospitals is imported, say doctors. This invites an import duty of 2.5% and heavy maintenance charges which run into lakhs of rupees, adding to the cost of treatment. There is an urgent need for medical equipment to be manufactured in India, they say.

According to GSK Velu, convenor of FICCI’s healthcare panel, the medical equipment industry is a 40,000 crore industry. “However, hardly 5,000 crore of equipment is bought from Indian companies. Even simple equipment like glucometers, ECG machines, x-ray machines, MRI machines and angiomachines are imported,” he said

Doctors running hospitals say that import of equipment not only invites a severe import duty but also heavy maintenance charges. “The duty on imported machines ranges anywhere between 0% and 20% and the maintenance expenses for a machine that costs 5 crore to 6 crore varies between 25 lakh to 30 lakh,” said Dr Nalla G Palaniswami.

All this makes treatment prohibitively expensive. For some reason, the decision makers are doubtful about the quality control and longevity of Indian manufactured equipment, which should be dispelled,” said Dr K G Bhakthavathsalam, chairman of KG Hospitals, while speaking at the first FICCI TANCARE meet held in the city on Tuesday. A coffee table book titled Beacons of Care listing the contributions of the city’s leading healthcare institutions was released at the event.

Doctors say it is time the Indian government changed policies to aid the healthcare industry. “Two decades ago China was in the same boat, importing all their medical equipment. But, today they manufacture all their equipment,” says Velu, who is also the managing director of Trivitron Healthcare. “This is because they have a policy that says all companies outsourcing their manufacturing to them, should also share their technical know-how. India has no such rules,” says Dr Palaniswami.

Speaking about the growth of the pharma industry, Velu said India, which was once importing medicines now was producing surplus and exporting them too. The medical community also appealed to the government to increase expenditure on health care. “We spend hardly 1% to 5% of our GDP on healthcare, which is why only 25% of patients get treated at government or NGO-run hospitals. Seventy-five percent of the burden is borne by private hospitals,” said Velu.

The dean of the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospitals, Dr Edwin Joe, admitted that the government health set-up needs to be strengthened. “There are many government hospitals which can do any surgery and others who can’t even offer basic surgeries. The situation has to improve,” said Dr Joe.

The planning commission’s recommendation to allow corporate hospitals to start medical colleges was praised. Doctors agreed it would go a long way in improving the doctor-patient ratio from the existing 1:2,000 to 1:1,000 over time.

Source: The Times of India