By Dr. K Neyazi Ansari
In the face of persistent attack of coronavirus, what one can feel is that the government finds no too many choices but to extend the lockdown period till May 31 with certain relaxations. Though lockdown phase 4 is a welcome move by the government to stop the virus from spreading, it raises many a relevant question about the health infrastructure in India.
I totally and categorically agree to what Anand Sharma, deputy leader of Congress parliamentary party and former union cabinet minister, wrote in his article published in The Indian Express updated on May 7, 2020 about the health infrastructure in India. He writes that two-thirds of hospital beds in India and almost 80% of available ventilator-equipped ICU beds are in private hospitals, but they are handling only 10% of the Covid load. He further writes that for a country with a large number of poor and socially vulnerable citizens, private healthcare is neither accessible nor affordable. Ironically, in this time of crisis, it is government hospitals that are taking on the burden.
Alarmingly, to make matters worse, the total number of confirmed cases has now passed the 1,65,0799 mark and 4,706 deaths. The rapid increase in number has posed serious challenges to the government. As per the report published in Hindustan Times updated on May 16, 2020, the fatality rate for India is 3.23% compared to the global death rate of 6.92%. Though it is lower than the global figure, it has claimed lives of more than 4,000. Added to this, certain relaxations on curbs in lockdown in phase 4 will definitely increase or increasing, as per reports, both the number of confirmed cases as well as deaths.
Since government hospitals have to carry almost the entire burden, it is imperative that required resources and logistical support need to be ensured and provided to them. Thus, the current health crisis alerts the government to allocate more and more resources to public healthcare infrastructure as health expenditure amounts to 3.6% of the GDP (as per OECD) which is substantially below the low and middle income countries’ average of 5.4%. Thus, for the government, introspection is need of the hour.
Last but not the least, in absence of proper medical remedies, prevention remains the only option against the virus. So, let’s keep ourselves informed and follow the government guidelines and advisory from health departments for our better prospects.
About the Author: Dr. K Neyazi Ansari is from Jharkhand. He is currently doing his research work independently. His areas of research interests include African studies, ethnicity, globalization, political transition, conflict and displacement.