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Healthcare needs a rejig

Saturday - January 26, 2019 9:42 pm , Category : WTN SPECIAL

WTN: The healthcare establishment of our country is marred by mismanagement and high costs of treatment. And both of these maladies hit mostly the common man and the poor. Thousands die every year for lack of medicines since they cannot buy them for the high cost they entail. Over 39 million Indians are pushed to poverty because of ill health every year.

Around 30 per cent population in rural India don’t go for any treatment for financial constraints. In urban areas, 20 per cent of ailments remain untreated due to the same. About 47 per cent hospital admissions in rural India and 31 per cent in urban areas were financed by loans and/or sale of asset to meet the needs. Drug prices shot up by 40 per cent between 1997 and 2007. The government spend on healthcare has been a mere 1 per cent of GDP.

Even with the government now allocating about 2 per cent of the GDP on health, India’s healthcare spending is amongst the lowest in the world. And more than funding, it has always been the lack of political will and effective administration that have kept away affordable healthcare from the reach of most Indians. And then misuse and siphoning off of funds is no secrecy in India. Implementation of several good schemes falls woefully short of expectation due to deep-rooted corruption made worse by apathetic attitude and callousness of the bureaucracy. Stringent regimen of harsh punitive measures and the government seen to be severe in dealing with any corrupt practices and/or incompetence in ensuring a sound implementation of the schemes would go a long way towards a deterrent and a grudging compulsion to deliver.

We have reached a stage where ruthless wielding of the stick is essential to ensure that the nation's precious resources are not wasted/misused and the poor and the needy get a fair deal. Like education, the public healthcare system is in a shambles in India. Most rural hospitals, despite regular measures and orders and rulings and new procurements and new schemes remain ill-equipped, grossly mismanaged and poorly maintained, which has made people turn away from public healthcare system. The doctors are becoming less and less answerable to anyone for whatever treatment wrong or right they administer.

The poor patients are ill-treated, the food allotted for them just vanish, the provision of milk and fruits is thrown to the winds, many are charged hefty sums for treatment despite this being highly illegal, generators don’t work, toilet taps run dry, nurses are lethargic and untrained, ambulances lie broken or don’t come in time, the phones are not attended to, the doctor is not available at the time of duty (he may be in his private clinic at that time), beds are short (as many are even carried away to the homes of the staff for personal use), prescribed drugs are either unavailable at the hospital or they are charged, which again is illegal and no authority comes to inspect and report the situation and even if he does, he hardly takes any action, nor are the lacunae shown to him, being conveniently hidden behind a veneer of neatness and efficiency, that usually is not there.

Even the private hospitals, which charge lakhs of rupees in the name of the ‘facilities’ are no better when it comes to honesty in dealings. Their tall claims too are marred by mismanagement, unprecedented hidden charges, misbehaviour and negligence. The need of the hour is a comprehensive strategy to boost and revamp the healthcare delivery system of the country. All the laws, red-tape, procurement and disbursement rules that are archaic must be done away with and new dictums should be formulated that help streamline things and pace up the whole process. That is the only way to address the issue in its totality. Patchwork measures here and there are not a permanent solution.

The process of a reorganization of the whole derelict structure may take time but it is high time the government charted a framework for the same, keeping in view a vision for, say, 2050, by which time a whole new healthcare structure should be in place. Foremost in the long list of processes, is to form an independent  high-powered body like the EC or the CGI which will closely monitor the whole healthcare process, formulate pragmatic policies, implement them quick and reprimand those erring. -Window To News