Dr Ramakanta Panda, VC and MD, Asian Heart Institute, says herd immunity not a practical concept; can only happen in a small country
GN Bureau | January 20, 2021
Renowned cardiologist Dr Ramakanta Panda has said that the pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of existing healthcare systems and it is wrong to draw comparisons with Korea, a country with the population equal to that of a single Indian state.
While speaking to Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform, Dr Panda while praising the efforts of the centre and state governments said that the pandemic has exposed inadequacies in healthcare systems not just in India but all across the world. “It has clearly proved that to survive every country must have a very robust public healthcare system where a large part of the population is covered under public healthcare. Private healthcare by its nature cannot be an answer to society’s problems in health,” he said.
“Looking at India’s population density, magnitude of problem and accessibility, it has done a great job in fighting the pandemic and it is inappropriate to compare it with a country like Korea whose population is only that of Uttar Pradesh,” said Dr Panda as he added that it was due to fabulous handling by the central and state governments, medical and paramedical staff and professionals, ancillary and support personnel, the police and grassroot level workers who stepped up their efforts and controlled the spread, reinfection and death rate due to virus.
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He was responding to a question on how we can ensure accessible and upgraded healthcare systems in the country. “By its very nature private healthcare cannot be accessible to all, not even in the richest country. Not a single country has been able to afford it. It can only be a substitute and a support,” said Dr Panda adding that even in the United States, 30% of its population was not covered with ‘Obama Care’. He explained that in private healthcare the doctor has to purchase land, building, equipment, manpower, electricity, materials and everything else which constitute 70%-80% of the costs which a robust public healthcare system subsidizes through public taxes.
On whether India has developed herd immunity against Covid-19, Dr Panda said that the concept of herd immunity is only for theoretical discussion and not a practical concept. It can happen in a small country where the population is equal to that of a Mumbai suburb or smaller and spread out. “The only way to get herd immunity is through immunizers.”
Responding to a question on if the effects of Novel Coronavirus have really been understood, India’s leading cardiac surgeon said that that largely they are, but it will take few more months to completely understand its nature. He added that the damaging effect of the virus can last inside the body for months depending on whether it is increasing propensity to form blood clots, having multiple and repeated lung infections or developing pancreatitis which can cause diabetes which can take months to recover and come back to normal.
Sharing his views on deep-rooted ‘cut’ practices in healthcare systems in India, the renowned cardiologist said that earlier the practice was very common in several countries including the US. “At the end of the day, the doctor is charging extra to his patient to pay that cut to another doctor. The doctors realized it is an evil system. It is almost eradicated from most countries except in India,” he said.
He lamented that today the cut practice today has become a norm, unlike 30 years ago when he was a student, it was looked down upon and person taking it was considered an outcast. Illustrating with an example, the senior doctor said that a young doctor from a middle class family who has just joined the profession has already spend 10-15 years studying medicine and further on specializing. He has already spent Rs 10-15 crore taking loans. “When these young doctors start practice they do not get patients because nobody will refer patients unless they start paying money to the referring doctor. It has become a vicious cycle and many doctors are forced to do it. Like in any other profession, a few black sheep are giving bad name to the fraternity. Someday this evil will be eradicated,” said Dr Panda who along with other doctors has been fighting against this ‘evil system’.
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