No treating India's sick healthcare?

Our neighbour China grills its ministers over flaws in healthcare policy. Indian ministers, however, insist on repeating them.

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Sonal Matharu | January 8, 2011



China has proved it once more that it is always a step ahead of India. This time, the leap is in the healthcare sector. Recently, Chinese legislators were allowed to grill the ministers on issues of public hospitals’ reform and the session was made public through the Xinhua news agency.

This was least expected of the communist China, which is facing problems in the healthcare not very different from what India is going through. Like in India, most Chinese doctors flock to the cities, crippling the healthcare set up in the rural areas. The Chinese ministers had to face questions as to why the reforms have failed to provide affordable healthcare to the public. Poor infrastructure and service delivery force patients from rural areas to seek treatment in city hospitals.

India can very well understand the gravity of the situation. Government hospitals of repute are bursting at the seams with patients from across the country while private hospitals make profits caring for those who can afford their treatment.

Our ministers, however, have come up with innovative solutions without doing much homework. The health ministry has sanctioned setting up six AIIMS-like hospitals in different states without giving much thought about where the doctors and professors for these hospitals and colleges would come from. Another grand bill to regularise human resources in health is on its way. One close look at the text and one would find that the bill talks about everything but regularising and equitably distributing the healthcare providers. The endless committees and reports by various ministries gather dust in government offices. The health insurance industry is flourishing as people suffer. But our ministers switch from one royal cushioned chair to the other. They are servants to the people but live like kings. They are answerable for their actions as to why the policies stamped and sanctioned by them fail decade after decade.  They must tell us why households after households slip into poverty just in paying medical bills and they must tell us their definition of ‘affordability’.

Wonder when our ministers will be prepared to be grilled in the so-called greatest democracy. 

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