India’s healthcare scene is a juxtaposition of swanky premium hospitals in metros and decrepit, poorly equipped shacks that masquerade as medical clinics in villages. This glaring disparity is the reason why medical care remains inaccessible to a huge chunk of the population in India.
Where does the Trouble stem from?
Quality has never been a problem that has plagued India’s medical arena. For ages now, some of the brightest minds in the country have been toiling relentlessly to come up with medicines and drugs that can cure the most persistent and stubborn diseases. And post-independence, India has indeed witnessed a heartening improvement in the quality of healthcare services.
Yet, there are millions who cannot avail of affordable medical care. In fact, a report by Lancet, places India at a lowly 145th among 195 countries when it comes to healthcare access.
What are the reasons for poor access to Healthcare?
Not many Amenities for Rural People
Healthcare services have not seen extensive penetration in rural India. Nearly 75% of India’s population resides in villages. Yet, only 31% of India’s hospitals are located in villages. And more alarmingly, only 16% of the hospital beds are allocated for rural Indians. Private hospitals naturally want to operate in large metro cities where they can maximise their profits.
Over the years, the Indian government has made provisions for plenty of Primary Health Centres in villages. But unfortunately, they have not been successful. That is because there is a deplorable shortage of medicines, devices and trained medical personnel.
Not enough Doctors
Medical colleges may be churning out thousands of doctors every year, but most of them are reluctant to practise in villages. Currently, less than 30% of the medical forces are serving in villages. Nearly 2000 Public Health Centres are lying dormant because of a shortage of doctors.
Similarly, the sub-health centres are manned by a midwife, multi-skilled healthcare personnel and a meagre few assistants. This small workforce is forced to see to the needs of hundreds of people every day.
Moreover, many Public Health Centres and sub-centres do not have any female doctors among their ranks. And that is the reason why most women outrightly refuse to drop in at these clinics.
What’s worse is that merely 19% of the medical practitioners in villages are qualified.
Paltry Outlay for the Health Sector
At present, the government allocates merely 1.02% of its GDP for health care. This translates to INR 3 per person every day. This figure is so inadequate that in India nearly 68% of expenses on medical services are out-of-pocket expenditures. On the other hand, the global average is just 18%. That is why healthcare is extremely expensive. And many people, both in rural as well as urban India cannot afford it.
Poor Health Insurance Penetration
Another reason why accessibility to health services is shoddy is that not many people in India have a health insurance policy. The Indian government, since Independence, has been introducing a string of welfare schemes. But still, about 56% of India’s population has not been brought under the umbrella of affordable health care. Only a few can purchase health insurance policies provided by private insurance companies because they charge a significant premium. That is why at the time of medical emergency, people who do not have an insurance cover have to fork out the cost of treatment from out of their pockets. And, to those who live below the Poverty Level, quality health services still remain inaccessible.
Top-notch healthcare is everyone’s right. With effective policies and persistent efforts, India can make a course correction and improve healthcare accessibility.