The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly overwhelmed healthcare systems around the world. And the healthcare system in India is no exception.
With a population of over a billion people, the system is grappling to increase testing while curbing infection. And with the COVID-19 patients tally having crossed the five lakh mark, hospitals, both government and private, are stretching themselves thin to accommodate the sick.
In the days since COVID-19 started spreading through the nation, the government has amped up its initiatives to contain the disease and attend to people who’ve tested positive. However, effectively handling this surge in infected numbers has proven to be challenging as the country’s healthcare system hasn’t been able to fully meet the people’s needs adequately.
According to LiveMint, The total per capita government spending on healthcare has nearly doubled from Rs 1,008 per person in FY15 to Rs 1,944 in FY20 but is still low. The total expenditure by the Centre and states for FY20 was Rs 2.6 trillion, or 1.29% of GDP, including establishment expenditure comprising salaries, gross budgetary support to various institutions and hospitals, and transfers to states under centrally sponsored schemes such as Ayushman Bharat. However, recognizing this inadequacy, the government has planned to increase healthcare spending to 2.5% of our nation’s GDP in the coming years.
Considering that the healthcare system at the moment lacks the required features to deal with a global pandemic, furthers the argument that health expenditure is very critical to safeguard our country’s health.
So, what can we do right now?
We need all hands on deck, no doubt. However, a special focus on strengthening public and private partnerships will be key in the coming weeks.
Healthcare systems ought to focus on delivering value to the patient, which boils down to providing quality healthcare at affordable prices. It’s also vital to shift our focus on delivering patient-centric services, as it’s now more than ever that the healthcare system needs to put the patient’s immediate need at the center of their services.
Moreover, our healthcare sector will thrive only when we empower frontline workers to make crucial decisions during challenging times. It is essential to equip our doctors with the resources to do so, and by providing them with better technology, helping them build their skill set, we will be enabling our doctors to treat efficiently.
From a long term perspective, this is an opportunity for the government and other stakeholders to revamp the Indian healthcare infrastructure. Healthcare systems must become nimble to adapt to the changing realities, with a central governing system in place to handle matters with utmost efficiency. And in the meanwhile, for the duration of this pandemic, we need to review old frameworks, focus on realigning plans by utilizing current resources and allocating budgets wisely.