No respite for healthcare crisis in India

Lack of public sector involvement

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July 5, 2017

/ By / Kolkata

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Lack of infrastructure and personnel remains a major challenge for healthcare in India, apart from poor public sector initiatives

Lack of infrastructure and personnel remains a major challenge for healthcare in India, apart from poor public sector initiatives

Even as nine of India’s poorest states are badly affected in terms of healthcare, the budget allocated to this crucial aspect of governance is not fully utilised, as per a recent report by IndiaSpend.

India’s state of healthcare fails to paint a pretty picture despite India gaining a reputation of being a destination for medical tourism. There is a discrepancy on the concept of medical aid in India for those who live in the country and for those who pay for their medical visas as the reported cost of surgery in India is almost one-tenth of that in the United States or Western Europe. Increasing privatisation in healthcare combined with standards of public healthcare dropping and lack of expertise in a large number of states in the country makes an ideal case for a critical situation. According to an analysis by IndiaSpend, nine of India’s poorest states are where maternal deaths and infant mortality rates remain extremely concentrated. In a country where there is an absence of a universal healthcare scheme provided to its citizens, in the exceptional case of government spending also seems to have barely any impact on healthcare statistics.

“Nine of India’s poorest states – home to 581 million or 48 pc of India’s population – account for 70 pc of the country’s infant deaths, 75 pc of under-five deaths and 62 pc of maternal deaths, but do not spend even the money they have set aside for healthcare,” outlines the analysis by IndiaSpend, which considered data provided by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The analysis further showcased that the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, eastern state of Bihar, central state of Madhya Pradesh and western Indian state of Rajasthan are home to an approximation of about 372 million people, more than the combined population of US, Australia, Sweden and Greece, “together contribute to about 58 pc of all child deaths in India.”

The nine states noted as being “high-focus” were Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, eastern Indian state of Jharkhand and Odisha and the north-eastern state of Assam. These overwhelming numbers that attract attention to a grave problem faced by the country, that these nine states need an immediate reform to address the healthcare crisis in India. India’s average spendings from the social sector budget on public healthcare and family welfare remains a mere 4.8 pc and these nine states scored marginally less than the average with 4.7 pc.

Lack of infrastructure and expertise

As per the IndiaSpend report which cited RBI data, among these states that held the burden of India’s healthcare, “Bihar is 81 pc short of community health centres (CHCs), which provide secondary healthcare in the form of referrals and specialists to rural areas, and Jharkhand is 66 pc short of primary healthcare centres (PHCs), the first point of access to a qualified public-sector doctor in rural areas.”

An alarming fact about the analysis was that there were several of these states which spent less than the budget allotted to healthcare, yet even those who spent above the average had no visible relation to indicators of healthcare. As per reports, India ranks lowest among the BRICS nations in terms of average spending on health proportion of GDP. On a global comparison, India stands at a shameful 154th among 195 countries, according to a Lancet report titled ‘Global Burden of Disease’. At a time when investments in the private medical sector are growing and being pushed, perhaps the poor and rural folk who have no access or away of affording quality treatment are forgotten. Isn’t it the aposite time to introspect?

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