BY: VOH - 18 Aug-2020

The recent casualties at JK Lon hospital in KOTA – where 100 infants died at the government run organization – may be shocking. When viewed as symptoms of a deeper malaise in the Indian healthcare scenario however, the stat assumes an even more alarming proportion.

An absence of oxygen pipelines in the newborn care unit, pigs roaming freely inside the premises and a bed : nurse ratio of 13:1 (where 4:1 is the minimum desired ratio) all point to an abysmal state of affairs. Gaping lacunae in the infrastructure and resources areas are the primary culprits.

Heath is not always the absence of diseases of ailments. If one goes by 1978’s Alma-Ata declaration in Kazakhstan that saw the participation of 197 countries (India being one of them), it is also a fundamental right of all humans. Nearly 42 years on though, India continues to have the highest number of tuberculosis and leprosy cases in the world, the highest number of infant deaths (within the first year of life) and the highest number of women mortality cases during pregnancy and childbirth. The final straw on the proverbial camel’s back, as it were, is that outlay of public expenditure on healthcare is only 1% of the national GDP.

In India, more people die due to poor quality of healthcare than due to factors like inadequate access. Insufficient drug supply, untrained personnel, administrative work that doctors are often burdened with (in addition to their core tasks), low social status of healthcare workers and inadequate pay of staff are all stumbling blocks to a system that’s practically on life-support.

Be it primary or secondary healthcare, we as a nation must up the ante. From building awareness to greater community involvement to a change in mind-set & culture, it’s time for mass-scale transformation. At a policy level, the state has to pick up both the moral responsibility and the bill with a greater budgetary outlay in the sector, while keeping in mind that privatisation is not always a way out.

With Ayushman Bharat (the National Health Protection Scheme) slated to address the dual challenge of communicable and non-communicable diseases head-on by strengthening its network of health and wellness centres and sub-centres, a solid start seems to have already been made. But the road ahead remains long.

We can’t just leave it all to the government. With a country the size and complexity of India, the state will always be strapped of resources. To ensure Kota doesn’t happen again, we all need to raise our voice.

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