Well-known social and political activist Dr Sandeep Pandey, taking strong exception to the Niti Aayog plan to hand over district government hospitals to private players, has said that it should remember that “some of the best, most efficient and inclusive healthcare systems in the world are government-run.”
Citing the examples of countries like Canada, Iran and Sri Lanka, which it says are “shining examples” of of healthcare systems, Dr Pandey, in a statement as a senior office bearer of the Socialist Party (India), says, “In India, too, the current Delhi government has made remarkable strides in improving access to quality healthcare.”
The statement, also signed by Surabhi Agarwal and Bobby Ramakant, says, the Delhi government’s “significant investments in close to 200 primary healthcare centres around Delhi, called Mohalla Clinics, and ensuring they are well-staffed and properly equipped”, suggests what Niti Aayog should actually be recommending.
Pointing out that “in 2019, the Delhi government allocated 14% of its budget to healthcare”, the statement says, as against this “the Indian government’s per capita expenditure on healthcare is among the lowest in the world and in the South Asian region”.
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that countries should spend at least 4-5% of their GDP on health to achieve optimal healthcare outcomes, the statement says, “In the current central budget, the percentage of funds allocated for healthcare is 2.25%. This comes to about 1.4% of the GDP.”
Noting that this stands in sharp contrast to the spending about 10% of India’s budget on defence, the statement conrinues, “In the absence of the political will to provide adequate funding to something as basic and essential as healthcare, placing the blame of the system’s dismal performance on public sector inefficiencies and presenting this as a justification for privatisation, is clearly disingenuous.”
It continues, “The problems of inadequate facilities, understaffed clinics and overworked and poorly performing personnel, which plague healthcare in India, are all linked to a lack of financial resources and bad governance, and cannot be solved without stronger government’s commitment to public health.”
The statement believes, “Privatisation can only lead to superficial improvements, while inevitably reducing access for most-in-need by driving up costs, taking us even further from the goal of universal healthcare”, insisting, those who would suffer most are “people belonging to marginalised communities.-Counter View