COVID has demanded complete focus on the Health Infrastructure of India for the past 2 years. A country that spends only about 1.5% of the GDP on healthcare needs to engage huge health and economic resources to deal with this pandemic. However, this certainly has come with a cost where other issues related to health and well-being have been neglected.
Geeta- a woman in her 60s coming from the Bhokta community of Jharkhand lost her eldest son in a road accident in the year 2020. Speaking to Goa Chronicle she said that the cause of the death of her son is the COVID situation rather than the severity of the accident. Since, many hospitals aren’t admitting patients until the COVID test is done, we lose the ‘golden hour’- the time period when the chances to save a patient is maximum. Also, we were informed that all the healthcare staff and doctors were engaged in the COVID wards leaving very little or no attention towards other cases of illness, accidents, injuries etc. Situation is similar in many other states as well.
Apart from deaths due to such accidents and injuries, India also is burdened with high cases of microbial diseases like Tuberculosis, Malaria, etc. Being a tropical nation with high flora and fauna has created more vulnerability towards such health issues. Various studies showed that up-till 2019 deaths in India due to TB was nearly 480,000 per year. However, India’s Central TB Division says that the number of reported cases of TB has gone down by nearly 12% from the pre-COVID times. WHO extrapolates this to conclude a lesser number of tests being conducted. There has been a drop of about 25% people in India receiving TB care in the year 2020 as compared to 2019.
The situation is equally grim for non-infectious diseases like cancer, heart problems etc. With people being locked at home and the health system focusing on COVID, it has been really difficult for the patients to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. The challenge of maintaining social-distance too adds up to all this. The National Institute of Health shows that cases of Cardio-vascular diseases have increased to 4.77 million in the year 2020. Cancer too is becoming more common especially amongst working women who face the double burden of managing the household and work. All these have been completely swept under the carpet when it comes to media reporting and coverage.
The Government of India plans to spend about 2.5% of the GDP on public health by 2025. India also aims to eradicate Malaria and TB by 2025. Also, many white-collar diseases need attention. In such a scenario, worsened by the COVID, it is needed that both diversification along with grass-root reach is ensured when it comes to the health sector. India has 1 doctor per 1500 patients as compared to the WHO recommendation of 1 doctor per 1000 patients. Also, there is a lack of specialization in other health-care staff like the nurses. Many health-devices like pacometer too are largely imported, contributing to high costs.
Our government has taken concrete steps to make healthcare services accessible & affordable to all the citizens, especially for those without wealth.
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) March 26, 2021
Nevertheless, the Government is working on the right direction via its Ayushman Bharat Yojana, National Health Mission etc. Also, various insurance schemes along with roping in the private hospitals to deal with critical healthcare situations are steps that deserve appreciation. Human health and well-being demands layered solutions where each aspect from infrastructure to human resource requires special care. Thus, immediate investments in resources, training, R&D etc. is what can help us re-focus on other life and health issues along with keeping our battle with the COVID still on.