In New Delhi, the capital of India, long queues of patients and their worried family members wait to enter AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), with hopes of affordable and long-lasting treatments for the sick. A majority of the people belong to the lower middle class and the poorer and socio-economically deprived sections of the society. Their low incomes obstruct them from approaching the private healthcare sector and its high service cost. With the surge of accusations and actions against the “cut-practice system” in private healthcare, people belonging even to the higher middle class are reverting back to the government hospitals.
Now, the main question is, does the public healthcare system of India have sufficient resources to support and provide good quality healthcare to all? Well, recent phenomenon such as the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy (2017), where innocent children died due to a lack of oxygen supply, and the Chhattisgarh sterilization campaign (2014), where many women died due to improper surgery, suggest that the public healthcare system is highly inefficient and not well prepared to handle the problems of an exponentially growing population. This has in turn created skepticism in people’s minds regarding the efficiency of the government hospitals.
So, where do the people go? One may suggest private hospitals, but the extremely high rates charged by them leave the patients and their families in a far worse situation, exacerbating the situation both in economic and social regards. Clearly, Indians cannot depend on either the private sector or the public sector. So then where should the people go for their treatment as these are the only two options available to them?
Thus arises the need to improve the access to private systems, to increase budget expenditures and prioritize allocations to the public sector. Budgets have to be allocated for Research and Development, which would lead to better diagnostics, identification and treatment of diseases. Since India has a large population suffering from a multitude of diseases, it makes it favourable for research and diagnostics to be carried out and with continued government support and cooperation from International Agencies, healthcare can be accessible to everybody at affordable rates. Local healthcare services in rural areas and development of rural infrastructure and small-scale production units would ensure better utilization of the workforce and increased productivity in people.
India’s holistic development would be possible only when the large malnourished and diseased population is provided with proper, accessible and affordable healthcare services. The financial segment would also play a major role in ensuring this by providing cheap credit to all irrespective of their status and by creating awareness about bank schemes and procedures amongst the masses. Creation of Resident Welfare Associations, Self Help Groups and Area Sabhas would encourage people in urban and rural areas to carry out loans easily, pool in their resources and discuss relevant issues pertaining to healthcare.
When people crusade for their rights, express their grievances on public platforms and demand large changes from the government, the government will be compelled to bring about desirable reforms. This is the very spirit of democracy. For instance, the recent probe into the high rates charged by the private sector was initiated by the mass protests against unfair practices. Despite the pressure of well-organised and strong medical organisations, the government boldly passed laws, capped prices and brought about reforms for the same. It is thus evident that people’s participation and increased political activity would reap benefits for the nation as a whole. India would be able to strive for a better future when the youth is healthy and proactive. Proper implementation and enforcement of initiatives such as the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Swachh Bharat Yojana and Mission Indradhanush by the government, along with the increased participation of people, would lead to the overall development of the nation.