Healthcare has risen to become a desperate need today. The Covid-19 Pandemic has had hospitals and healthcare providers, across the globe, stress-ridden for over 2 years. This calls for a critical look at our healthcare system to celebrate its successes and feed its deficiencies.
Over the years, India has developed its health sector tremendously. This can be observed in the consistent decline in infant mortality rates, increase in life expectancy, and better vaccination coverages in the country. Due to increased vaccinations, communicable diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, measles, and influenza, have seen a considerable decline over the years. This is owing to the ‘Universal Immunization Program’ launched in 1985. The program has absolutely boosted India’s health scenario. One of its notable achievements is its role in having India be declared as a ‘Polio-free state’ in 2014. This initiative has, in fact, inspired many foreign countries to adopt its features. Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke are being treated by integrating allopathy with traditional Indian medicine, maximising effectiveness, and better patient satisfaction. Technological development and research have facilitated organ donations such as kidneys, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, and intestines.
By streamlining the production and distribution system, India has successfully created a solid supply of generic drugs to all parts of the country. This was achieved by the ‘Jan Aushadhi Scheme’ introduced by the government in 2008.
India’s healthcare sector has certainly grown leaps and bounds allowing its benefits to percolate deeper and deeper into our society each year. The system, however, falls short in the following domains – Quality, Accessibility, and Affordability.
India suffers from a chronic shortage of skilled medical professionals, which has only been intensified by the pandemic. The recommended ratio of medical service providers to people by the WHO is 1:1000. India’s ratio stands at a mere 1:10,189 (104% short), posing a desperate need for more healthcare professionals. This brings us to yet another predicament. The lack of skilled medical professionals can be attributed to hefty medical school fees. Most often, interested students shy away from attending medical school on account of being unable to afford it. The problem of such insufficiency brings with it another drawback- lack of accessibility. Accessibility to good healthcare is skewed towards the urban parts of the country. Studies have shown that only 3% of the major illnesses in metro areas remain untreated, whereas 12% of the same remain untreated in the less developed villages. The rural population relies heavily on traditional healers whose reliability may be questionable.
The cost of healthcare is another factor hindering its availability to all economic sections of our society. Considering that the private sector plays a more dominant role in providing healthcare, it is not economical for the poor. Often, even those who can afford it are pushed to the brink of falling into poverty as medical fees are exceedingly high. This can be solved by increasing government expenditure on healthcare. It will also fuel the development of the much-needed medical infrastructure in the rural and marginalized areas. Infrastructural development paired with more abled medical personnel will increase the number of walk-ins in government-run clinics. This will in turn make the system more affordable to all as government-run clinics are much cheaper in comparison to private hospitals.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has taught us the importance of health and intensified the need for a well-oiled health care system. Growth in the health care sector can only be achieved by a harmonious collaboration between the government and private sector. A well-planned budget with adequate funds will lead to overall public health improvement. While we have seen a drastic level-up in the Indian healthcare industry, we need to work on its drawbacks with great diligence.