Everyone has a right to healthcare. While our metros boast of the best and latest in health care services, our rural areas present a stark contrast with outdated infrastructure and equipment and a shocking shortage of manpower.
Our healthcare system also has to be accessible to everyone irrespective of their financial condition or place of residence. Caste or any other form of discrimination should have no role to play in accessing healthcare which is everyone’s basic right.
India does face a few challenges when it comes to healthcare access as well as delivery.
Public Health Awareness
- Knowledge of health conditions that are common in our country like diabetes, HIV, cancer, mental health conditions, etc. is dismally low.
- As a result, people either do not realize the initial symptoms or fall prey to unscientific treatment modalities and finally present at a late stage to the hospitals.
- Being aware of one’s own health can go a long way towards preventing a health condition or catching it at an early stage when treatment is not only shorter but relatively cheaper as well.
- Unfortunately, health awareness has been found to be quite low in our population. This is with respect to not only the rural areas but the urban ones too.
- However, health awareness campaigns have been shown to benefit people and more such initiatives are needed to dispel many of the myths and false beliefs people have about certain diseases.
- Empowering people with the right information thus plays an important part in promoting health and well-being.
Accessibility to Healthcare
- Accessibility to healthcare covers a range of issues starting from whether the healthcare facility offers the needed service and is financially viable to whether it is well-connected to nearby towns and villages.
- Other barriers to accessing available healthcare include social and gender biases which might prevent people from reaching out for healthcare.
- In remote villages, the accessibility is such a challenge that cases of malnourishment and untimely death are high.
- Even in cases where healthcare is accessible to the people, the quality of the healthcare being given needs evaluation. Their cleanliness, sanitation, availability of water, toilets, beds, etc. play a huge part in people trusting the institution.
Lack of Funding for Public Healthcare
- When enough funds are not allocated to public healthcare services, it translates to services that are not on par with what private health care facilities offer.
- As a result, for more technologically advanced services people have no choice but to go to private hospitals. This might result in a lot of out-of-pocket expenditure.
- Sometimes, to avoid this people often neglect their health or wait till the condition gets bad before going to a hospital.
Lack of Health Insurance
- While health insurance is a necessity in today’s times, people still do not make buying health insurance a priority. Many people feel it is unnecessary and consider spending for it an uncalled-for expenditure.
- This is because awareness regarding health insurance is generally low.
- Younger people who are more secure about their health feel they don’t really need health insurance and delay buying it.
- But the truth is no one can predict health emergencies and being prepared with a health insurance will help tackle sudden treatments and hospitalizations.
- With health insurance, people will not need to put their health on the back-burner for fear of expenditure.
- Government run hospitals have a shortage of not only doctors but support staff too and this shortage is even more in rural areas.
- The doctors and other staff prefer to work in hospitals that have better infrastructure. As a result, when people do come to the hospitals and find them inadequately equipped, they lose their trust in the hospitals.
- This results in people either having to go to private hospitals or travel to urban areas for healthcare which involves quite a lot of spending (in terms of travel, stay and food other than health expenditure).
- To address this, the Government needs to offer proper incentives to work in public health care in rural areas.
- WHO recommends the doctor patient ratio to be 1:1000. With the population in India, this ratio is not satisfied but the Government has stated that it is taking steps to achieve this ratio by 2024.
Research & Development
- State-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure cost a lot. As a result, only a few private hospitals can afford it.
- To make technology economical, it has to be made in India. Hence, there is a need to encourage home-grown research and start-ups.
- When production happens locally, the cost will automatically come down and more institutions will be able to afford it.
- The pandemic has brought into focus the need to be self-reliant and the Government is now encouraging indigenous equipment and technology.
- With the pandemic, many people had to turn to telemedicine to look after their health.
- While this was a boon for those with access to digital technology, their rural counterparts who were not well-versed with digital technology and some who did not possess a smart phone were left behind.
- It is estimated that only 25% of the rural population has a smart phone and an even lesser 4% has access to a computer.
- While telemedicine has huge possibilities, without adequate infrastructure it will not reach everyone.
Addressing the above issues will definitely make healthcare more accessible to all. That these issues are acknowledged now is itself a step in the right direction.