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Business Economy

How does Coronavirus shape healthcare industry

By Radhika Tiwari

New Delhi, Jun 28 (UNI) SARS-COV-2 has struck the world like never before with only the Asian flu of 1957-1958 that killed an estimated 1.1 million people and the great depression of 1930 coming closer to the pandemic's severe impact on the global health and economy.

In an interview with UNI, Chairman and Managing Director at Trivitron Healthcare Group -- the largest Indian medical technology company in the world, gave an insight on how the sector, which is braving the virus from the forefront, is dealing with the crisis and what should be the steps of both the government and the healthcare industry to work out preparations for the future pandemics.

Responding to a pandemic has a direct impact on the economy – the stricter the public health measures that disrupt economic activity, the bigger the blow to the economy. The economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected over 9.95 lakh people and took more than 4.98 lives since early December 2019, has been particularly brutal.

Speaking on the pandemic's impact on the Indian industry and how it is strategising or planning to continue business in the current situation, Mr Velu said that the Covid-19 situation has severely impacted a number of business verticals, healthcare being the one under enormous strain. It has become challenging for other healthcare services to keep their financial wheels turning during the lockdown period due to less revenue churn and the general uncertainty in the global financial environment.

However, in these testing times, business leaders have adapted to a new set of rules and have been mindful of various business aspects to alleviate risks and to survive the slowdown caused by the impact of COVID-19, he maintained.

Mr Velu said, "To ensure business continuity, businesses are keeping a track of expenses against revenue status in a more detailed manner so as to have a clear picture of the financial status of the organisation and thus plan ahead future goals and business approach. Secondly, business leaders are digging deeper into the existing supply chains to know the vulnerabilities of the existing supply model and available supplier options that can be collaborated, once the primary supplier collapses."

"And most importantly, organisations are now setting more effective communication channels so that they remain connected with teams, clients, and all other business partners," he added.

Speaking on the reducing dependence on China and other countries for the manufacturing of medical devices, Mr Velu told how the Production Linked Incentive Schemes (PLIS) will boost the medical device manufacturing in India.

Indian pharmaceuticals industry is the third-largest in the world, but it is dependent on China for crucial raw material. The new scheme seeks to reduce this dependency and ensure an adequate domestic supply of bulk drugs and APIs.

This is why the government has decided to provide an incentive of Rs 10 crore each to domestic companies setting up plants to produce 53 crucial active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in the country.

He said that with a massive import dependence of 70-90 per cent for different categories of critical medical devices, India must aim for encouraging local production and indigenous manufacturing. India’s medical devices industry is heavily dependent on imports. As much as 70-90 pc of the domestic requirement, across varying medical product categories, is imported. It must be noted that despite the strong demand for medical devices, India’s domestic manufacturing has remained low, mainly limited to low-value products.

"The PLI Scheme for promoting domestic manufacturing of Medical Devices would boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in the medical device sector, particularly in the identified target segments. It will lead to the expected incremental production of Rs 68,437 crore over for five years. With increased investments, health tech organisations will be able to better fund their research and bring in cutting-edge technologies subsequently adding quality to indigenous products," he stated.

Referring to the 'Vocal for Local' strategy, Mr Velu underlined the challenges faced by the Indian healthcare industry and said, "I agree that there are certain challenges for the healthcare sector in switching to local goods. We don’t have proper infrastructure, the research work in the country is limited to certain elite institutions however, the 20 lakh Crore economic booster is a significant declaration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His call to be ‘Vocal for Local’ is a major push to see domestic producers support their manufacturing and supply chains for a Self Sufficient and Self Reliant India."

India Inc must put forth a deliberate attempt to use the capability of the Government's "Make in India" initiative. There is a renewed interest in the med device sector and significant investments and stimulus packages in this sector will facilitate meaningful progress in the healthcare sector, he said.

Speaking on the impact of the pandemic in the healthcare services, both globally and domestically, he said, "COVID-19 Pandemic has stretched the healthcare infrastructure of even the most developed countries and is expected to cause economic recession unparalleled in recent history. The rapidly increasing demand on health facilities and health care workers threatens to leave some health systems overstretched and unable to operate effectively. Every day we come across news of hospitals getting overburdened, lack of sufficient hospital beds, and so on.

However, on the positive side, this pandemic has made people aware of hygiene practices. After the disease ends, policymakers shall invest more in the healthcare sector, realising the importance of lives over everything else. Indigenous health manufacturing shall see more considerations from governments all around the world, he added.

Moving to the first step that the Indian government should take for the healthcare sector once the pandemic ebbs away, he said, "Once the pandemic gets over, the government must take bold steps to revamp the public healthcare sector. Up till now, the private health sector has flourished in the country, however, I am positive the present leadership, shall take cognisance of the existing gaps in the public healthcare sector and try to fill them so that quality healthcare must reach to each and every section of the society."

"In my opinion, in the event of future healthcare, businesses should consider having a disaster recovery plans and companies must double-check the soundness of existing business continuity plans and initiate massive retooling processes to incorporate technologies that support remote work," Mr Velu opined.

As for preparedness towards the next, unprecedented pandemic, we, at Trivitron have developed rigorous contingency plans to slow the progress of a pandemic and limit its impact on employees, partners, consumers, and communities. We are exploring our shortcomings and framing up new SOPs, Work instructions and guidelines that would support business continuity in case of a pandemic or a similar situation. Keeping in mind the still-the evolving healthcare system of our country, Trivitron Healthcare has scaled-up production to yield more COVID-19 centric products, he added.

Trivitron has been a flag-bearer of 'Make in India' and has been working to manufacture COVID-19 related products in its manufacturing facilities in Chennai, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam. It, in collaboration with its overseas partners, has been making an available range of Covid-19 RT PCR Test Kits, RNA Extraction Kits, Specimen collection Kits, COVID-19 antibody test kits, PCR systems, and other laboratory products, for COVID-19 diagnosis and confirmation.

It has been working to Manufacturer Ventilators to fulfil the demands of the current healthcare ecosystem. Further to this, the company has also introduced hand sanitising products, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and other required modalities for COVID.


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