At its peak, the media outcry against Modi government, one saw pictures, tweets and news stories of everything from ICU beds to Oxygen shortage. Everyone from Supreme Court to those who knew nothing about healthcare started to decide how much of Oxygen was needed for each hospital and which drug needed to where. It’s different matter that judges did not know a Paracetamol from a Dolo, but they pretended to be medical experts. Huge amounts of time was wasted only to be revealed later that Government like the one in Delhi headed by Arvind Kejriwal was faking data.
It’s all the more striking when one realizes that there was a concerted campaign to amplify the shortage of everything. True, there was an issue, but as Dr Devi Shetty had reminded us in a video that even advanced countries like US or UK could not have handled the second wave that hit our country. Even the milords of the Courts were forced to acknowledge that the pathetic state of healthcare infrastructure, goes back to over 7 decades of indifference.
Our investment in healthcare in measly 1% to 2% of our GDP, whereas we pay huge salaries to file pushers in our government, who add zero value. Many governments peddle free power to water, just to get votes. If and only if, the Governments both at the Centre and States had invested in healthcare instead of subsidies and freebies, our primary healthcare would have been a shining example. As has been revealed in many a research, one of the main reason for families in our country going bankrupt, is due to the medical expenses due to an expected major ailment.
In a way, the second wave of pandemic has helped our politicians to understand that Medical Oxygen and Ventilators are more important than giving free stuff, just to win elections. Our healthcare infrastructure needs massive investment and upkeep. It’s not enough to have ‘huge’ government hospitals in every district, if one does not have Doctors, Nurses, Technicians and Paramedical staff. Most of the doctors refuse to work in districts and villages, for there is no incentive by way of pay nor career progression. The link between the Big Pharma companies and Doctors is tenuous and the ‘hook’ to prescribe medicines in return for illegal gratification is well known.
What one needs to do now is to empower, the village level primary health centres either run by the respective state governments (which really does not work) or outsource it to healthcare majors (as is being done in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh). About 85% of the people who travel to cities for healthcare advise, need not do so. It’s the white coat phenomenon and a belief that a ‘huge’ private hospital can deliver healthcare which drives the poorest of poor to sell everything, so that they can get a chance to live.
It’s time the Union and State Governments decide what they want to do. The Governments have no business in running an Airline or Petroleum companies. The government needs to stick to delivering the best of Education, Healthcare, Defence Services and Rural Infrastructure. Leave the rest to private sector. Cut down the bloated Government bureaucracy and use all that money to recruit more people in Healthcare. Sell Air India and Petroleum PSUs and build more Hospitals and Medical Colleges. We messed up 74 years, we cannot afford to lose any more time. The pandemic was a wake-up call. Let us use it to our advantage.