Experts say Covid exposed India's fragile health care, call for higher investment

Deepak Venugopalan, Puja Kapoor and Dr Harish Pillai
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Deepak Venugopalan, Puja Kapoor and Dr Harish Pillai

Highlights

The rising number of deaths due to Covid, long queues to get vaccinated and shortage of beds in hospital have exposed how India’s healthcare system lies paralysed in the face of the pandemic

Bengaluru: The rising number of deaths due to Covid, long queues to get vaccinated and shortage of beds in hospital have exposed how India's healthcare system lies paralysed in the face of the pandemic.

Dr Harish Pillai, CEO, Aster India, Aster DM Healthcare tells The Hans India that the pandemic has placed immense pressure on the health care sector, especially the workforce, infrastructure, and supply chain, and underlining the need for an overhaul.

He recommends increased investment in the health sector.

"Invest in building resilient, strong health systems at the Centre as well as at the State & district level, this will enable us to act better and respond efficiently to the health crises. Setting up of hospitals in Tier2/Tier three cities and beyond. We should have smaller hospitals with 100- 150-bed hospitals, to bridge the infrastructure gap between Metro & Tier2/Tier 3 cities," Pillai elaborates.

He states that the reformation in the medical education sector should include creating a large cadre of competent and skilled healthcare workers.

"We need to encourage a research system under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. The need for improved disease surveillance systems that can provide early alerts and enable swift distributed data-driven responses with regards to public health emergencies.

Currently, with the opening-up of vaccination for 18+, public & private healthcare providers need to accelerate the vaccination drive and target 60% adult population to be vaccinated within the next six month. A sustained focus on holistic and preventive healthcare must be included," Pillai suggests.

Deepak Venugopalan, Regional COO, Bengaluru & Tamil Nadu Cluster, MHEPL, advises that nobody should panic as after the first wave it was realised that the citizens have to live with the virus for some more years.

Coming to the already affected people, Venugopalan suggests that infected people should be categorised based on their symptoms into mild, moderate, and severe.

"The health care system needs to be understood by the community members as to when an individual actually requires hospitalisation. The current challenge is that everyone is rushing to the hospital even if they have mild to moderate symptoms because of the fear of Covid-19. They are unable to analyse or understand that they need to be isolated in their homes or undergo home treatment or with the use of a remote monitoring system one can overcome this dreadful disease," Venugopalan says.

"The first thing is that the community must be able to identify where do they actually fit in. Now when you start segregating between the mild, moderate, or severe, the severe cases or the needy ones include those with lower oxygen saturation levels, those who cannot be managed at home with an oxygen concentrator, or those with comorbidities with degrading of other organs because of Covid-19 and suffering from severe breathlessness. These are few conditions that require hospitalisation. Now for the healthcare system to identify and offer care for such needy ones, we must declutter or decongest the existing beds for the needy ones and not for those who can be managed through home treatment," he adds.

Dr Puja Kapoor, Pediatric Neurologist & Co- Founder of Continua Kids, remarks that India's healthcare is always stretched to its fullest limits, but the pandemic has taught us to focus more on our healthcare infrastructure else the consequences would be devastating and overwhelming as it is today.

"With an insurmountable number of affected individuals with COVID infection requiring critical care or oxygen or certain life saving medications, in an acute period of over 2 to 3 weeks, the healthcare in India is stretched out to its fullest limits. The focus on investing 2.5 percent of GDP on healthcare infrastructure should be immediately implemented for increasing trained medical professionals, staff, nurses, establishment of institutions for production of necessary medical equipments and drugs. All the developed nations also showed similar desperation at their peak prevalence of infection," She explains.

Kapoor suggests that a central body should be established in coordination with medical professionals and government representatives to manage such critical healthcare situations.

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