Healthcare is one service that the rich and poor need alike, but there is an astonishing difference between the qualities of healthcare the two sections of society receive based on their ability to pay. There is also a great discrepancy in the coverage and quality of healthcare between rural and urban areas as well as between public and private health care. (India spent little over 1% of its GDP in budget year 2016-17 on public health expenditure in comparison to world average of 6 %).
India having Approx 9.3 Lakh doctors still lags behind in providing healthcare for all with a doctor-to-population ratio of 1:1674 and has around 0.9 hospital beds per 1000 people . Only about 20% of doctors are in rural areas – where 70% of the population lives with limited access to hospitals and clinics, due to which people have to travel great distances for checkups. This poor quality of care in the public sector is due to lack of infrastructure / doctors and support staff that lack the intention of providing better treatment.
The inadequacy of the public health care system in India indicates that many turn to private healthcare providers, although this is an option generally inaccessible to the poor. A large majority have no access to health insurance, therefore most healthcare expenses are paid out of pocket and they continue to expend income, savings, and assets, in attempting to restore well-being, on account of the vicious circle of demanding informal health providers, unqualified practitioners, and unaffordable health services. This has led many households to incur huge expenditure that threatens a household’s capacity to maintain a basic standard of living.
A large part of economically weaker section goes to untrained /informal medical practitioners providing health care facilities – Local Quacks/Bengali doctors/ Jhola Jhap doctors- for inexpensive and quick treatment. Local treatment has ruinous effects on the body in the long run. A lot of people who don’t receive appropriate and timely primary healthcare then have to spend time and money on secondary and tertiary treatments. Consequently 45% of hospital beds are held by primary patients.
There is persisting problem of affordability of healthcare by the general population. For India to achieve a considerable standard in healthcare, it has to start at the core level with improving quality of primary healthcare services and making it affordable, so as to reduce dependency on untrained doctors. A developed primary healthcare would reduce need for rather expensive secondary and tertiary healthcare reduces. Moreover, through digitization of services by providing modern facilities and primary screening devices which accurately diagnose diseases, infections and other complexities can up the level of primary healthcare in India.
How do you think India can further improve its primary healthcare sector? Let us know your views in the comment section below.