Need for greater investment in health care, education

Need for greater investment in health care, education

Covid – 19, the contagious respiratory illness caused by a novel corona virus continues to spread worldwide

Covid – 19, the contagious respiratory illness caused by a novel corona virus continues to spread worldwide. With rapid transmission of this virus in our country, the Government decided on two important strategies: lock down the entire nation to break the infection chain and to quickly ramp up its health care facilities to face the challenges of the pandemic.

The pandemic has brought into focus India's low investment and spending on public health. For example, there are only 94 ventilators in 128 railway hospitals across India.

And not all available ventilators are plugged out from intensive care units. So, the number of equipment that can be made available for Covid -19 patients is far too less.

In any global context, India's health facilities lag behind, compared to other countries like Italy, the US etc. The US, which saw a dramatic spike in infection, has 2.6 doctors and 2.9 hospital beds per 1,000 person.

In comparison, India has only 0.8 doctors and 0.7 hospital beds per 1000 persons. Now, one can easily imagine what will happen if India sees the worst condition same as that of the US.

Health care sector is at the epicenter of this global pandemic challenge. Today, every Indian state has similar priorities: add new beds, order lifesaving ventilators, extending services of retired doctors, nurses, recruiting new health officials and workers etc.

The Government even converted medical colleges and railway coaches into isolation wards, stadiums into quarantine facilities for Covid-19 patients.

The railway factories were asked to manufacture items such as sanitizers, hospital beds, masks in large amounts in advance, before the situation becomes worse.

The private sector has also risen to the occasion by offering their needed support to the Government. With agility and speed, orders were placed for PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment), ventilators, testing kits and other supplies needed to detect and treat Covid-19 patients.

Besides, India announced an economic stimulus package worth 1.7 trillion rupees designed to help low income households.

But, the stimulus package fails to address the immediate concerns of our healthcare system. Private hospitals, which account for two-thirds of hospital beds and almost 80% of available ventilators are handling less than 10% of the critical load of Covid-19 patients.

Announcing a new 'health investment plan' is the urgent need of the hour. At least, 1% of GDP out of the stimulus package should be reserved for improving the country's health infrastructure and for strengthening public health services including health education and awareness.

And, up to 70% of the additional expenditure should be for primary health care, and health centers. To establish a self-reliant and prosperous India, the Government should step up investment in public health across the country.

M Divya, BDS Second year, CKS Dental College,Tirupati.

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