Strengthen India’s Public Health System
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Dr Harsh Vardhan,
Minister of Health and Family Welfare,
Government of India
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented, once in a century, public health, social and economic emergency. It is the doctors and nurses of India’s government hospitals that have been at the front line of the pandemic response risking their lives every day to keep India healthy.
This is despite the chronic neglect of the government health system which is underfunded and overstretched with a shortage of doctors, nurses, beds, ventilators, adequate PPEs and testing facilities.
India spends only 1.28% of its GDP on health. There is one government doctor for every 1445 Indians, compared to the WHO’s norm of one doctor for 1000 people. The private system is subsidised and supported instead which has resulted in rising healthcare costs. Every year around 7% Indians are pushed below the poverty line due to medical expenses.
Regulate Private Healthcare to Ensure Rights of Patients
Despite the subsidies and support, the private sector, which accounts for 70% of the healthcare in India, has played only a peripheral role in this epidemic. Reports of denial of care and overcharging have emerged from private hospitals in different states. The private healthcare sector needs to move beyond profit maximisation and towards accepting public health goals and social accountability.
This epidemic starkly reminds us that a robust public health system is a core social institution necessary for our sheer survival. At the end of the day, it is the public health system which will stand by our side in times of epidemics and crisis. We must give the highest priority to strengthening it.
Join us in demanding the strengthening of public health system and regulating private health sector to ensure that rights of patients are protected.