The recent surge in coronavirus cases across India has put the country’s healthcare system under the radar as people wait in long queues to find a hospital bed amidst an ongoing public health crisis.
The official count of cases reported in the last 7 days is close to a million. Also, India set the record for the highest single-day spike with 2,61,500 daily infections on April 17. With over 1500 deaths, the situation is grim and seems to have spiralled out of control.
The social media is full of messages requesting hospital beds, plasma donors, oxygen cylinders. People are stepping up for humanity but nobody knows what the government is doing to handle the situation.
The recent death of a Lucknow-based journalist who was live-tweeting his oxygen levels and still couldn’t find a place in any hospital is a classic example of our country’s poor healthcare system.
Let’s take a look at the following figures and find out how “well-prepared” our country was to fight this or any pandemic:
We have looked at the World Bank data of four important factors i.e. Health expenditure (% of GDP), Physicians (per 1000 population), Basic Handwashing Facility (% of the population), and Hospital beds (per 1000 population). These factors have emerged as the most crucial in the current crisis.
In 2014, the health expenditure as % of GDP was 3.8%. Over the years, we see that there has been no substantial change. The health infrastructure is crumbling and it was bound to happen as we have just neglected it. No government has paid attention to the alarming needs of people, a lot of campaign promises but the reality on the ground has never changed.
So much emphasis is laid on the washing of hands to stop COVID-19 infections but in actuality, an estimated 78% of rural households and 59% of urban household don’t have access to a reliable water supply. The number of physicians per 1000 people stands at a meagre ~0.5%.
The long line of ambulances waiting outside the hospitals has become the characteristic feature of this second wave of covid infections. The simple reason is that we were always short on beds, let alone during a pandemic time. As per the World Bank data, the total number of hospital beds is just 0.5/1000 people. Hence the total fatalities stood at 1500 in a single day on April 17.
The situation is already out of control and any expectation of a miracle at this point is highly improbable. The least we can do is to follow all the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines and understand our collective responsibility towards each other. Humanity has been able to survive such onslaughts before and would survive again. But the important question is that we as citizens of India would at least start asking for our basic rights such as health or will we sit back and relax waiting for the next pandemic to come. It’s up to us to decide.