AHMEDABAD: Rural Gujarat pays the least, after Tamil Nadu, for treatment at public hospitals, according to a Union government report ‘Key Indicators of Social Consumption in India: Health’. The report, however, says these rural folk place more faith in small private clinics or private hospitals than in public health facilities.
Rural Gujarat pays an average of Rs 1,191 for treatment at public hospitals while their urban counterparts shell out Rs 3,529 on average. However, in rural Gujarat, only one in three persons prefers government hospitals to private clinics or hospitals. In urban Gujarat, only one in five persons prefers government facilities for treatment.
The report states that in rural areas the average spending at a private hospital is Rs 25,027, which is 17% lower than at a private hospital in urban Gujarat.
A senior state government health official said that even with treatment costs higher at private hospitals, in both rural and urban areas people prefer private medical help to government hospitals. “The reasons for these are the lack of facilities and unavailability of senior doctors at government hospitals.”
“The problem with such urban-rural surveys is that they do not capture the fact that specialized surgeries such as heart, kidney, or obstetrics don’t take place in rural areas. For that one goes to cities or district referral hospitals, where medical costs will be higher. At public referral hospitals too, patient care costs are higher as they include food, travel, loss of daily earning, among other costs,” said Dileep Mavalankar, director of the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar.
Specialists not available
In fact, at many taluka-level hospitals in Gujarat, specialists are not available. These positions are gradually being filled. Also, just 60% of the funds that Gujarat gets from the Centre under the National Health Mission is utilized. Thus, with fewer facilities and with specialist appointments taking time, people end up paying more at private hospitals in urban areas, Dileep Mavalankar, director of the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar said.
Mavalankar added, “Although there are a number of health subsidies, I feel there is ample scope in Gujarat to take these benefits to those in need with better health management, planning and provisioning for a special unplanned fund to handle events such as epidemics, episodes of which will only get more frequent.”
Jayanti Ravi, principal secretary, health, said, “Paying less than in other states in the country is a good sign. We are working on plans to further reduce the burden of healthcare costs on common people. We have observed that treatment often pushes people into debt.-Times Of India