Access to healthcare facilities, a bigger problem in India.

Access to healthcare facilities, a bigger problem in India.

The healthcare system in India is primarily administered by the states. India’s Constitution tasks each state with providing health care for its people. In order to address the lack of medical coverage in rural areas, the national government launched the National Rural Health Mission in 2005. This mission focuses resources on rural areas and poor states which have weak health services in the hope of improving health care in India’s poorest regions.

The health care system in India is universal. That being said, there is great discrepancy in the quality and coverage of medical treatment in India. Healthcare between states and rural and urban areas can be vastly different. Rural areas often suffer from physician shortages, and disparities between states mean that residents of the poorest states, like Bihar, often have less access to adequate healthcare than residents of relatively more affluent states.

Problems in healthcare facilities:

A serious drawback of India’s health service is the neglect of rural masses. It is largely a service based on urban hospitals. Although, there are large no. of PHC’s and rural hospitals yet the urban bias is visible.

In India shortage of medical personnel like doctors, nurses etc. is a basic problem in the health sector. Similarly the number of hospitals and dispensaries is insufficient in comparison to our vast population.

India has only 10 lakh registered doctors to cater to 1.3 billion citizens. As per the MCI claims, half of the doctors in the country are quacks( unregistered doctors who don’t hold a degree in allopathy). While urban areas have 58% qualified doctors, in rural areas the number is as low as 18.8%.

The availability of public health care services is abysmal. There is only one government allopathic doctor per 10,189 people, only one government hospital bed per 2046 people, and one state-run hospital per 90,343 people.

Out of 1 million doctors in the country, only 10% of them work in the public health sector. They lack good infrastructure, proper management, dedicated staff and many other things which are required to provide reasonable and appropriate healthcare.

Despite being a rapidly growing economy, India spends a meagre resources on its healthcare needs. In fact, the overall expenditure on public healthcare in India has contracted over time given that India spends only about 1 percent of its GDP on public health.

How can we improve?

Improving access to health care services depends in part on ensuring that people have a usual and ongoing source of care (that is, a provider or facility where one regularly receives care). People with a usual source of care have better health outcomes, fewer disparities, and lower costs.

By forming health committees to address people’s concerns, the Gram Panchayats can build a framework that can be shared with and implemented by the District Planning Committee.

The availability of medicines, oxygen, unoccupied beds, the number of patients admitted and the number of patients visiting each hospital should be recorded daily. This could help in monitoring the process strictly and take preventive measures spontaneously.

To improve the image of public hospitals and create confidence among the people, elected leaders and administrative heads should avail treatment only from government hospitals.

Since it is not always easy to set up healthcare facilities in different parts of the country, the government can look into public-private partnerships. These institutions can serve as teaching centres for medical aspirants and also provide subsidised healthcare to the people.

To bring about quality in healthcare, transparency is imperative. For this, a system needs to be put in place that gives accreditation to hospitals, arming patients with in-depth and accurate information about a hospital and its services.

Public pharmacies often run out of free medications and in the private sector, sales and distribution of drugs is largely unregulated, and this needs to be regulated. Moreover, authorities must out a price cap on special drugs which are used for saving lives.

Conclusion:

The present system is inarguably not sustainable due to its inefficiency and a lack of incentives for improving performance. There is a potential to create the best healthcare system in the world and to bring forth this paradigm shift will not be easy but is not impossible. Improving health care cannot be achieved overnight; in some cases it has taken several decades and even a century. But we have to begin somewhere.

Today, India is being touted as an emerging superpower, and as a formidable global economic power, accessible quality healthcare can be a key competitive strength for the country. It is time to commence the development of our medical facilities and services to help the country leapfrog into a progressive nation.

Nidhi Shree

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