Steps to lure private investments into the Ayush sector

To realize the tall plans that the Central government has for the Ayush sector, luring private players into the field is vital. It is not just about the money, as the Centre is not exactly lacking in funds; private investment will inject into the sector a spirit of competition and also legitimize it as a mainstream alternative to modern medicine. After all, a private entity won't put in money somewhere where there is no money to be made or a brand name to be cultivated. Ayush, including Ayurveda, has to prove that it is a fertile ground for both. 

The main issue here is the lack of data regarding the true size and scale of the sector. There is no official source of data about the availability of raw materials, manufacturing, requirements, and even the number of consumers of Ayurveda. Most Ayurveda products are not patented, which makes it difficult to have propriety rights on the drugs, limiting the funding for R&D in this area. Then there is the problem with non-standardized treatment processes and aftercare. 

All this is to say that getting private players to invest in the Ayush sector, including Ayurveda, is a difficult thing to achieve. However, the Central government hopes to achieve exactly this with its new guidelines brought out last Tuesday. According to it, contribution from the private sector is being considered to achieve the desirable ratio of bed to population ratio of 1 bed per 2,000 population. 

As of now, there are 3,844 Ayush hospitals in various categories across the country run by central and state governments. These hospitals together have a bed strength of 60,943. To lure private investment into the sector a host of measures have been suggested to bring in the required clarity and standardisation into the sector. 

The Ayush facilities are to integrate traditional practices with the contemporary healthcare system and cater to the diverse healthcare needs of the population. It has also stressed the continuum of care and establishment of assured referral systems alongside facility readiness to manage referred cases.

The healthcare facilities should be easily accessible with adequate space and infrastructure allocated to cater to the evolving healthcare needs. They should be able to handle sudden healthcare needs during disasters and emergencies, epidemics, and pandemics. The facilities will be categorized as ‘desirable’ or ‘essential’ depending on their infrastructure, human resources, drugs, diagnostics, equipment, and other components. 

A robust grievance redressal mechanism should be established in all hospitals. There should be an occupational safety and health policy for Ayush hospitals, outlining the framework for ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of employees, patients, and visitors. Quality should be maintained in such a manner that the outcome meets the prescribed standards, even without any supervision.

The implementation of such clear guidelines for Ayush hospitals is expected to boost investor confidence. Once the money from private sources starts flowing into the sector, the steps needed to legitimize Ayush, including Ayurveda, will happen by itself. The Centre too is counting on it to happen by bringing out this revised set of guidelines.

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