Millennium Post

Patchy healthcare

If there is one sector in India that requires much greater care and spending for the people, particularly for the poor, it is health. As matters stand, a little over two per cent of the total Union budget is spent on health. And, this prevails when there is still a very high degree of maternal mortality, infant mortality and malnutrition. The rural and semi-rural areas are the worst affected. There are countless villages all across India that have rarely spotted a doctor, let alone received their consultation and service. For those who make it to the dark interiors, the story that emerges could well be horrific. For those indisposed or really ill, there is no recourse other than to fall into the hands of quacks, if at all. On paper, there are supposed to be regular relief centres but in reality, they are few and far between. This is the picture of the dark interiors in several states of our country. It is positively dreadful and it is up to a strong-willed and determined government to put its foot down and set up an infrastructure to ensure essential succour for the affected. Going by reports of the growing number of incidents of negligence and apathy, matters aren't enviable in the urban and semi-urban sector either. The house physician has now become extinct. For any ailment, you would be first asked to go for tests to one of the many diagnostic centres that have mushroomed at an alarming rate. In some regions, these centres are known to come up with results that have later been proven incorrect. Their mistakes do not just cause hindrances but the poor patient is also pushed in the throes of acute depression. Only second and often third opinions at different and reliable centres yield the plain and simple fact that there is nothing wrong with the patient. Much the same holds true in the case of some "specialists". As some distinguished physicians have confided on the condition of anonymity, some patients are diagnosed and treated arbitrarily. Second opinions, therefore, become mandatory. Sometimes, these happen very late. Be that as it may, there are other areas that require essential scrutiny. Among them feature the practice of doctors being given "sales targets" to ensure a steady turnover for expensive treatments that may not be necessary at all. That apart, there is the alleged Doctor-Pharmaceutical lobby nexus. When cheaper and generic options are available, why prescribe expensive and hard-to-find medicines? A thorough and complete investigation is necessary. The Hippocratic Oath must not be turned into a farce. Unless someone knows the "right" contact, getting admitted for a proper and reliable check-up is not easy. We do not have a National Health Service and have failed to emulate the healthcare systems of the West. Some of our best talents are doing very well attending to patients there. Is it not possible to reverse matters here?
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