The majority of illnesses Indians suffer are linked to poverty and poor living conditions. Children fall ill because they are not vaccinated. Patients die because the health centre is too far away or because life-saving drugs are not available. Surely it's an injustice that people must accept illness and death because they cannot get even basic treatment?
We need 7,415 community health centres per 100,000 population. We have less than half the number. Worse, at the healthcare facilities we do have, the basic staff is not in place. Only 38% of our primary health centres have all the required medical personnel. With the public health infrastructure in such a shambles, how can the poor count on government health centres
Children dying of snakebite for want of anti-venom vaccine at the public hospital; patients dying for want of a respirator; women in labour turned away from a community health centre; life-threatening illnesses misdiagnosed.... These horrifying case studies and experiences recorded at public hearings in different states in 2004 by the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, and by InfoChange Agenda correspondents illustrate the extent to which citizens are denied the basic human right to timely and effective healthcare
Nanhe Singh of Sheikhpura village near Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh has cancer of the pharynx. He has been undergoing radiation therapy at Safdarjung Hospital. A marginal farmer with just four bighas of land, Nanhe visits the hospital for sessions of radiation therapy. There is no facility for cancer treatment anywhere near his town.
The Kolkata newspapers regularly carry stories of babies being found in garbage bins, of seriously ill patients dying because the electricity went off in the intensive care unit for hours on end. While there have been arguments that such stories are motivated and based on careless research, to visit a public hospital in this city is to witness despair.
At Mumbai's JJ Hospital, 1,000 HIV-positive people are amongst the 4,000 nationwide who are accessing the government's free anti-retroviral therapy (ART) programme. Sixty children in the hospital's paediatric ward are waiting for a lifeline. There are around 250,000 other patients in India urgently in need of ARVs, who can neither access the programme nor afford to buy the medicines for themselves
Patients from Nagaland often travel to Assam for medical attention. Meghalaya has set up permanent accommodation in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, for patients travelling there for treatment. A severe shortage of medical personnel and facilities is the major problem in the northeast
Sickness in households that do not have the capacity to pay for medical expenses can have catastrophic consequences. A survey of households dragged into poverty showed that 85% of 134 households in two districts of Gujarat and 74% of 335 households in three districts of Andhra Pradesh said that health expenses were the main reason for their economic decline
There is clear evidence that public financing is critical for good healthcare and health outcomes in any country. Yet in India, only 15% of the Rs 1,500 billion healthcare sector is publicly financed. Investment and expenditure in the public health sector is shrinking. As a result, the public health system is on the brink of collapse, and there's been a 30% decline in the use of public healthcare facilities