New Delhi, September 1 (G’nY News Service): The shoddy state of the Indian healthcare sector needs no introduction. While on one hand India is the global hotspot for cheap generic drugs – on the flip side, the country even lags behind Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal in terms of infant mortality rate, child immunization rate and total life expectancy. Moreover, as the draft National Health Policy raveled in January 2015, over unaffordable health care expenditure bogs down 63 million citizens annually.
The Public Health Foundation of India’s (PHFI) national consortium titled Health Assurance in India: The Road Ahead, held on August 31 assessed the present scenario of the Indian Healthcare sector and proposed possible amendments along with identifying the core areas of focus. Discussing the key issues along with a large congregation of doctors from all across the country, Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, President PHFI and Chair of Universal Health Coverage, emphasized on Primary Health Centers (PHC) as the need of the hour. “We urgently need to strengthen the primary healthcare infrastructures with adequate staff and supplies aided by the support of ancillary services. The government should also consider higher allocation of funds to the PHCs so that the public facilities are progressively strengthened thereby reducing people’s dependence on private providers, most of which are propelled by the primary objective of profit making.”
He also added that the involvement of the private sector is inexorable, but the utilization of their services should be limited only to fill gaps of the public sectors’ capacity.“It has to be ensured that the goal of the venture is human benefit and not profit.” said Srinath Reddy addressing the consulate. “A regulated cap on profit should be considered and there should be control over both domestic and Foreign Direct Invest (FDI) driven by profit orientation.” The consortium also nodded that the private sector could be instrumental in skill development programmers, improving social accountability and most importantly, in bringing a standardization in recording and documentation of medical records.
The need of a holistic approach integrating different systems of healthcare was also debated in the discussion. Alternative healthcare systems if immaculately shored up and professionalized could very well deliver high quality services and care. Expressing his views of the topic, Dr. Ramesh P. R. of the Arya Vaidya Sala Kottakkal Aurvedic Hospital and Research center said, “The departments of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) can contribute substantially to improve the present state of affairs of the health care industry if integrated properly. The efficiency of this model has already been successfully proven in Germany. I personally do not vouch for cross over; I believe that independent functioning of the respective systems would yield better results. Also, it is of utmost importance that there is mutual respect between all the streams of medical studies/practices so that we all can work with a positive attitude to achieve benefit.”
The symposium agreed that the Indian MBBS programme is in dire need of a facelift. “It’s high time that the approach of the curriculum is restructured as the basic competencies are seemingly lacking. It is shocking that medical students of contemporary times do not even possess the skill set to attend to deliveries, fractures and other minor medical emergencies.”
Ultimately, the discussion concluded that the issues plaguing the Indian healthcare sector could be well addressed by adopting corrective, targeted and solution oriented approaches. Some issues may necessitate capacity bolstering while some could be addressed through awareness building. Also, as Dr. Sandra Albert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine revealed, “It’s not the infrastructure that actually matter, it’s the attitude that can really make a difference. What doctors in India lack is compassion and what the sector lacks is accountability. The entire healthcare sector could be overhauled only when these two maladies are cured.”