With cases skyrocketing every single day, India is beating its own record within the very next day. The SOS calls for beds, oxygen and essential medicines have shown us the pitfalls of our health infrastructure. But the most important questions are: “Who will take the fall for the failure of India’s healthcare system?” and “Did India not have enough time to prepare for the second wave of COVID 19?”
On paper, Nirmala Sitharaman’s 2021 Budget did have a lot of positive developments planned for healthcare.
The Budget 2021 is very important to analyze the government’s preparedness for another wave of COVID 19. Investment in health infrastructure increased to 2.2 trillion Indian rupees ($30.20 billion) to help improve public health systems as well as the huge vaccination drive to immune 1.3 billion people. It aimed at improving three areas i.e. preventive health, curative health, and well-being. The increased spending on the healthcare sector through PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana will improve infrastructure, align with industry expectations of 2.5 to 3 percent of the GDP, and the GDP National Health Policy 2017 target of 2.5 percent by 2025.
The government did chalk out a plan in Budget 2021. Where did it go wrong? Did the government not have any warning?
We are in the middle of a global pandemic and we need to be prepared until most of the population is vaccinated. Every callous decision can take us to square one. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, in an interview with an Indian daily, said that it’s not about the early signs but the realization of the virus’s capability. He also added that if we don’t respect its ability to cause serious damage, we are going to get into trouble.
The organization of mass election rallies and religious gatherings acted as super-spreaders and became a burden to an already ailing healthcare system. Most important of all, the change in the narrative of our leaders in declaring that we have conquered the virus, bought us our ultimate doom.
Therefore, should we define the present crisis as a failure of national health policies or ignorance of the state to execute its policies?
There is a need for the formation of an emergency team for COVID 19. Most of the countries have chipped in and agreed to help India. The central government has to make sure it allocates the resources efficiently among the states according to need. The government’s priority should be to ensure the supply of basic facilities like hospital beds, oxygen, and essential drugs to the states.
The private-public partnership for vaccine roll-out will be the most effective and successful model to vaccinate a large population like India. The government can deploy the military to deliver the vaccines to the states. Even though the government has allowed vaccinations of people in the age group 18 to 44, there is a shortage of vaccines to meet this target population. As a result of this, most of the states are not able to schedule vaccines for people in that age group. Most important of all, the government should make sure the vulnerable population of our country is not left out.
The crowd in the vaccination centres should be managed so that it does not act as a spreader of the disease. Once, the state has addressed the most important issues at hand, it should make sure to be prepared for the third wave of COVID 19.