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An aged man spends his entire savings to save his hospitalized son but fails, and with it disappears all hopes of living with security and dignity in his sunset years. An infant is denied the basic right to medical services and left to perish, all due to lack of money. A young man dies at the hands of fake medical practitioners who run a full-fledged hospital right in the heart of the country’s capital. A father forks out lakhs to simply pay for gloves and gowns used by a top hospital which however miserably fails to save his dengue-afflicted girl.
All such harrowing medical tales are very real, not random stories picked to represent a whole. Rather, these are everyday instances of how an average citizen suffers due to lack of medical services or the inability to demand quality and affordable health services in the world’s largest democracy.
Would a rapidly growing economy or high-flying diplomacy be enough to provide the common man with a life of good health through accessible and affordable health care?
It is high time to demand the right to health as a fundamental right and seek revolutionary change in a system where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer due to the insurmountable cost of quality healthcare in the country.
Taking our rights to the next level, the following are some of the demands being raised to help ensure a healthy life, without the crushing anxiety of financial insecurity and ruin due to exorbitant health care.
We need a separate Right to Health as a fundamental right to eradicate the problems associated with medical terrorism and to address the health crisis overall.
Articles 38, 39(e), 41, 42, 47 of the Constitution of India do not guarantee the Right to Health enforceable by court of law, while Article 21 guaranteeing Right to Life doesn’t clarify what is meant by “life”.
Out-of-pocket expenditure on health because of virtually non-existent insurance coverage and weak public health system are other key reasons for poor health of Indians. This is why India ranks after Pakistan and Bangladesh with average 57.57% out-of-pocket expenditure on health.
India has one of the highest disease burdens in the world. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) identified India’s poor health outcomes as one of the country’s major developmental challenges.
Right to Education has made amends for the absence of citizens’ right to avail of free education hitherto. Similarly, Right to Health can transform the way health services have been commercialized at very point
After an amendment which came into force in 2010, this right became enforceable by court of law with assigns punishment for unlawful activities.
When the government, being a socialist democratic republic, provides all educational facilities including mid-day meal during school hours to children between the ages 6-14 years, the children less than 5 years of age remain outside their reckoning.
As per NITI Aayog figures, the maternal mortality ratio per 1 lakh live births is 167 in 2011-13, with Assam registering the highest MMR at 300.
Another very important point is Doctor-Patient ratio in India as there is one government allopathic doctor for every 10,189 people, one government hospital bed for every 2,046 people and one state run hospital for every 90,343 people. These statistics have been furnished in National Health Profile, 2017 by the Government of India.
India doesn’t have enough hospitals, doctors, nurses and health workers. Since health is a state subject, disparities and inequalities in the quality of health care and access to health varies widely not just between states, but also between urban and rural areas.
As found in a recent WHO report published in 2016, only one in five doctors in rural India are qualified to practice medicine. It says 31.4 percent of those calling themselves allopathic doctors were educated only up to class 12 and 57.3 percent doctors didn’t have any medical qualification.
There are 462 medical colleges that produce 56,748 doctors and 3,123 institutions that train 1,25,764 nurses every year, but with India’s population increasing annually by 26 million, these numbers are simply inadequate.
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in June 2017 revealed that there is a shortage of 27.21 percent for clinical equipment and 56.33 percent for non-clinical equipment, of which Oxygen supply is a part.
Nearly 2 million slum-dwelling children die every year in India, 1 in every 15 seconds. This is the highest number anywhere in the world, and to be specific, more than half perish in the month after birth and 4 lakh in the first 24 hours.
With the increasing number of medico-legal issues in the country, there is serious concern over the doctor-patient relationship.
The rights of the patients drafted by the Trust can ensure safety, security, and dignity to patients of the country
The responsibilities of the patients drafted by the Trust also ensure that patients refrain from the unethical practice of vandalism and other forms of mob excesses at any point of time.
A few demands raised by the Trust need to be incorporated to help ensure quality and transparent healthcare services in India.
We need a constitutional mechanism for protection of health for all Indian citizens which includes prevention, treatment (emergency medical treatment, elective treatment, and general counseling) and control of diseases
The state expenditure on health is only 1.4 percent of the GDP which needs to be increased to at least 10% of annual financial statement on health care, considering the overwhelming number of recorded medical cases in the country.
Finally, it is a matter of serious concern for the entire nation that about 5.2 million medical injuries are recorded in India, of which around 98,000 people lose their lives every year.
About the author:
Ankuran Dutta is Associate Professor and Head, Department of Communication and Journalism (Estd. in 1967), Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, India.
He founded the first community radio service of northeast India ‘Jnan Taranga’ and the first web radio of the region ‘e-Jnan Taranga’ as the Station Manager. He worked on educational programme production in the radio for 5 years and is credited to have produced more than 800 audio and 250 audio visual educational programmes.
He also rendered his service as founder Vice President of Community Radio Association of India and is currently the Managing Trustee (honorary) of the Dr. Anamika Ray Memorial Trust which is a charitable trust that works for media research and health rights in the nation as well as is a mouthpiece for medical negligence in the country.