Millennium Post

Securing public health

Securing public health

Healthcare provided to the citizens of a country is a most relevant marker that determines the socio-economic progress of a nation. In this, India continues to rank abysmally low, as the quality of public healthcare continues to fail all standards of excellence and private healthcare presents escalating costs that rampage the average citizen's means of survival. Only recently, Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurugram was brought under the scanner after it charged a young patient Rs 16 lakh for the treatment of Dengue, spanning across 15-days, where the young girl ultimately lost her life. 16 lakh is a hefty amount that often supersedes annual family incomes. Private healthcare has been playing the ominous task of charging mindless amounts even for the most basic procedures, and the blame for this must be shouldered by the public sector's utter failure in providing quality healthcare to the citizens of our country.

Even today, 70 per cent of urban residents and 63 per cent of rural residents opt for price mongering private hospitals because the urgency of treatment is greater than the question of affordability. In a country like India, which is already plagued by poverty, the escalating cost of healthcare is forcibly pushing the impoverished into further penury as medical costs lead to an insurmountable debt which families are often incapable of recovering. Private healthcare entered India markets in the 1980s and since then there has been no turning back. The mushrooming of private hospitals across India's rural and urban landscape can be attributed again to the fact that citizens display very little faith on the efficacy of public organisations which have insufficient staff members, poor standards of hygiene and unsatisfactory delivery of medical treatment. India spends only 1.5 per cent of its GDP on public healthcare, this is less than half the amount that developed countries employ to alleviate their public health system. This lack of funding and inadequate governance has killed the scope for public health institutions to come to the rescue of citizens by providing them care at minimal costs.

Though public hospitals are required to provide treatment free of cost, these institutions are rarely approached, as a dying patient would be assured dead in the hands of their abysmally meted out treatment. Out of pocket private expenditure in India is higher even compared to other developing nations such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Mexico. It is high time that the Centre deliberates on a method to improve public health care funding. To protect its proliferating population that is being pushed to impoverishment in the hands of private companies minting millions, the government must step in to be the benefactor of its citizens, providing quality healthcare that doesn't compromise on lives or livelihoods.

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