India needs to urgently step into the domain of healthcare -Christophe Jaffrelot and Utsav Shah
-The Indian Express
One of the obvious reasons why public healthcare has not been a priority for successive governments of India lies in the fact that India’s middle class did not need it.
As epidemiologists tend to consider that the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic may not come before July, the question of the resilience of the Indian health system becomes more pressing, especially in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad. The limitations of the country’s public health system are well-known. India’s public hospitals have only 7,13,986 beds, including 35,699 in intensive care units and 17,850 ventilators, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (India) and Princeton University. Why does it matter? Not only because the country has already registered 1,24,981 active cases, but also because these figures are a reflection of the lack of interest of the government of India, for decades, in developing a welfare state.
The general perception behind the inadequate provision and availability of healthcare services is attributed to the country’s developing nation status. However, India lags behind its BRICS peers on the health and quality index (HAQ index). As per the National Health Profile 2018, India’s public health spending is less than 1 per cent of the country’s GDP, which is lower than some of its neighbours, countries such as Bhutan (2.5 per cent), Sri Lanka (1.6 per cent) and Nepal (1.1 per cent). In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, India finishes second from the bottom amongst the 10 countries of its region for its percentage spending of GDP on public health. Maldives spends 9.4 per cent of its GDP to claim the top spot in the list, followed by Thailand (2.9 per cent).
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The Indian Express. 9 June, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/coronavirus-epidemic-healthcare-system-public-hospitals-6449264/