Health Minister Azad favours Government-led health care in India

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 18:25

New Delhi: Strongly pitching for
Government investment in health, Union Health Minister Ghulam
Nabi Azad on Tuesday said it is neither feasible nor advisable to
have a private sector-led health care system in India as
majority of the population cannot afford it.

Observing that private sector health care can have a
devastating impact on family incomes, he said, "It is
pertinent to remember that more than three crore people get
impoverished every year on account of such medical
expenditures".
"The need for increasing public sector investment is
because of the inability of the majority of Indian population
to afford private sector provisioning of health care," Azad
said at a conference on infrastructure building here.

He said in India, it is neither advisable nor feasible
to have a private sector-led health system like in the USA.
"There is need to have both to cater to the different income
segments of our society".

"With almost one-third of the population still below
the poverty-line, high levels of illiteracy and malnutrition,
the role of the public sector is not only relevant but
essential for providing medical treatment to the poor," the
minister said.
However, recognising the efficiency of the private
sector, he said ancillary services like the laundry, security,
diet, sanitation, waste disposal can be provided by private
sector in public hospitals.

"Accordingly, we are working on a number of models
under which diagnostics such as laboratory services, X-ray, CT
and MRI and other high end equipments/services can be
outsourced," he said.

Observing that the health-wealth connection which was
recognised by western countries several decades ago, was
unfortunately overlooked in the Indian development framework,
Azad said, "it is only now that we are beginning to recognise
that economic growth is only possible when it is founded on a
healthy and literate population."

He said that though India was improving on its health
indices, yet, it continues to be one of the largest
contributors of disease burden in the world.

It is in this context that the building and forging
of partnerships with private sector gains immense importance
as health and well being is not and cannot be achieved by the
health ministry alone.

It is estimated that 75 per cent of human resources,
68 per cent hospitals and 37 per cent of total bed capacity is
in the private sector. The private sector has gained a
dominant presence in the area of medical education, training
and ancillary services, employing nearly 30 lakh persons.

But the Health Minister added that "with almost
one-third of the population still below the poverty-line, high
levels of illiteracy and malnutrition, the role of the public
sector is not only relevant but essential, for providing
medical treatment to the poor".

It is pertinent to note that, India is one of the five
countries in the world, which has almost 80 per cent health
spending incurred by households as compared to not more than
20 per cent to 50 per cent in developed countries.

Besides, the presence of private sector in rural areas
is negligible in the northern states, hilly states and North
Eastern states leaving a wide supply gap where rural areas
have to increasingly depend upon public facilities to access
health services.

The poor and the lower middle class strata of our
society require state intervention to provide them protection
against high cost of medical care.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 18:25

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