Why India needs an NHS-like healthcare model?

Source: Indian Express

Relevance: Understanding issues in the Indian health sector

Synopsis: India’s health care sector is plagued with various issues which have been exposed during Covid crisis. Let’s have a brief look at issues affecting Indian health sector.

Context

The Health ministry has claimed in Parliament that Punjab has reported only four “suspected” deaths during the second Covid-19 wave due to lack of oxygen, which is against the ground reality.

Even before the pandemic, similarly horrific healthcare tragedies occurred every single year like in 2017, 800 children died in Jharkhand of suspected encephalitis. In 2015, 18 patients died in a Chennai hospital, due to power failure after the floods. In 2014, 13 women died after illegal sterilisation at an overcrowded government health camp in Chhattisgarh.

Issues affecting the Health Sector
  • Vacancy and absenteeism– According to Niti Aayog database, in the worst state of Bihar in 2017-18, positions for 60% of midwives, 50% of staff nurses, 34% of medical officers and 60% of specialist doctors were vacant. Those on the job, despite being handsomely paid, are chronically overworked.
  • Public Expenditure on health– Even after the pandemic, the Indian government continues to budget less than 1% of GDP for healthcare, one of the lowest in the world. In contrast, China invests around 3%, Britain 7% and the United States 17% of GDP.
  • High out of pocket of expenditure– 62% of health expenses in India are paid for by patients themselves. It is one of the main reason for families falling into poverty, especially during the pandemic.
Global best practices
  • Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)– Britain’s legendary health network cures 15 million patients with chronic ailments, at a fraction of the cost spent by the US. The NHS funded by direct taxes is also the fifth-largest employer in the world, after McDonald’s and Walmart. One of every 20 British workers is employed as doctor, nurse, catering and technical personnel.
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