Dismantling of the Public Health System

-Sharanya Jain

The second wave of the coronavirus wreaked havoc in our country with the deaths of thousands of people. In such a situation, the public health system has been unable to serve people effectively.

 The Indian health system has not had quality health care for decades and is completely inadequate to provide quality infrastructure and adequate treatment to millions of its citizens. The virus has wreaked havoc in developed countries with far superior healthcare facilities like the US and the UK. India meanwhile had been sitting on a ticking time bomb. The shortcomings of the public health system were only further emphasized during the pandemic, from shortages in ventilators, intensive care units, rooms to oxygenation services. The private health system was ill-equipped to deal with a medical situation of this magnitude. The expensive healthcare system and lack of adequate insurance coverage resulted in people not going to hospitals, which resulted in further increased infection rates and stretched the public health system beyond its limits. Meanwhile, countries like Taiwan and South Korea have effectively addressed the situation by providing facilities such as free trials and state-insured insurance that have resulted in minor deaths.

Image showing the lack of oxygen supplies

The government of our country on the other hand has been ineffective and focused on holding major election campaigns instead of raising awareness on increasing COVID cases. Events like Kumbh Mela were conducted which have a large number of attendees and are also known as “super-spreader events”. India has also been the largest manufacturer and one of the major exporters of Covid-19 vaccines. Adequate equipment for professionals, properly equipped and suitable laboratories for precise analysis of samples were lacking. The authorities additionally couldn’t alter the market, which became flooded with overpriced and counterfeit masks and sanitisers. Additionally private hospitals charged exorbitantly high prices in the name of covid-19 care. Another important aspect of the restriction was the rumour mill carried by misinformed WhatsApp forwards and irresponsible sections of the media. Based on a complex jingoistic narrative, the Tablighis in particular, and Muslims in general, have been blamed for the rapid spread of the contagion. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its forecast for Indian economic growth for the current financial year to 1.9%, the lowest level since the balance of payments crisis of 1991. Latest data released by the Treasury Department. Statistics and program implementation show that the GDP growth rate in India has shrunk by 23.9 percent, and the country is one of the hardest hit countries.  Basic food supplies were inadequate in many states, resulting in severe stress and a survival crisis among the working class, particularly among the lower classes, and migrant workers. After the first wave, in Delhi, the centre was instructed to install 8 oxygen plants, only one of which was installed.

 The fault is as much of the people as it’s for the government. With the end of the lockdown in the first wave, people once again stopped taking the necessary precautions, such as staying indoors, wearing masks and sanitising. All this contributed in building a stronger and widespread second wave. We are making mistakes in handling this too, hoarding oxygen cylinders, medications, practicing self diagnosis, and medication has led to a surge in critical cases. 

See the source image
See the source image

The public health systems for such a situation needs to be revamped, we need to prepare ourselves for the ongoing and future pandemics. We need to start by developing adequate infrastructure and acquiring adequate equipment for medical teams. A larger budget should be allocated for  the public health system, and partnerships with private health systems must be formed.

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