The ongoing pandemic has brought to the forefront the issues faced in healthcare. While there is no doubt that both the public and private healthcare sector rose to the occasion to serve the people, there is also a lot of room for improvement.
Issues Faced by the People
We can broadly classify the problems faced by the people into two categories:
Economical Healthcare Options
- Both the state and the central government are continually introducing health plans for the benefit of the public. This definitely helps a lot of people but we have to realize that with our country’s population there is still a lot more that needs to be done.
- The government expends 1.3 % of its GDP on healthcare. This is hardly enough for a country of our size.
- There are reports that this is set to increase to 2.5%. While this would be a step in the right direction, there will still be a lot of people who will find healthcare unaffordable.
Access to Healthcare
- Healthcare is concentrated in the cities of India, but the majority of India lives in towns and villages.
- Close to 3/4th of our country’s healthcare facilities is in the urban areas – this includes both hospitals and doctors.As a result, a majority of our population lacks access to even basic health care services.
- Our country also lacks qualified medical professionals and as a result we do not meet the WHO’s prescribed doctor patient ratio. While the ratio should ideally be 1:1000, for us it currently stands at 1:1445.
Lessons Learnt from the Pandemic
The pandemic helped prove the benefits of a publicprivate partnership in healthcare which was successful in overcoming quite a few challenges. Now that the way to work together has been established, more such partnerships can come up in the future to benefit the public.
Solutions to the Health Issues Faced
India has resolved issues in other sectors by forging public private partnerships. This could be an answer to our healthcare needs as well. There are quite a few private players in healthcare in India and it is necessary to involve them to meet the needs of the people. A partnership between public and private healthcare translates to merging the infrastructure and skill the private sector offers with the accessibility and financial viability of the public sector. The ultimate aim of a public private partnership is the availability of quality healthcare services accessible across the country.
We can breakdown the advantages that a public private partnership would bring about as follows:
- The private sector can use its knowledge on healthcare management to change the public sector hospitals for the better – be it in terms of upgrading medical infrastructure or in terms of better running of the public hospitals.
- With more funds at its disposal, private sector can bring in the much-needed finance for the public sector.
- The latest in medical technology will reach people quicker. For example, during the pandemic, telemedicine played a huge role as lockdowns and social distancing came into play.
- Implemented in the right way, a public private partnership could financially benefit the private hospitals as the volume of patients will increase.
Challenges Faced by a Public Private Healthcare Partnership
While the public sector was aided by the private sector in the management of the pandemic, there are a few issues that need to be looked into.
- A partnership requires communication between both the concerned parties. Exchange of ideas and a way of impartial and smooth decision making has to be agreed upon. A public private healthcare partnership involves a number of people at various levels and communication may prove to be a challenge.
- The partnership also has to be monitored constantly on terms agreed upon by both parties. People with vast experience in healthcare management should be brought into the picture.
- Roles need to be delineated and responsibilities delegated.Accountability for tasks performed and regular evaluation is necessary. Guidelines on all these should be set.
- For the private sector, any partnership has to be financially viable while for the public sector it is about making healthcare affordable. Thus, an agreement has to be arrived on which will satisfy both the requirements. This can prove to be a challenge.
- Sometimes when one of the partners does not follow through on their commitment or delays delivering what has been promised, the onus falls on the other partner. For example, when the government delays financing, the private hospital may be left with no option but to turn away patients. This damages the trust the patients place on hospitals.
However, it is important to realize that the start of anything new will face some amount of resistance and its share of problems as well. The above-mentioned problems are indeed a reality but it doesn’t mean that they cannot be overcome. A public private partnership is essential for a country like India to meet the people’s needs. We have proved it is possible during the pandemic. More such partnerships are needed for healthcare to reach all corners of our country.