Healthcare in India has witnessed a noticeable improvement since independence. So much so, that in the last over 70 years average life span has improved from 32 years to 68 years with the availability of adequate healthcare facilities at least in the tier-I and II cities across the country.
Open and transparent government policies along with the participation from the private sector has over the years helped in the development of a well-structured, robust and organized healthcare system in the country. As a result, apart from improvement in life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate have also come down significantly.
From just 19 medical colleges-hospitals and 527 primary healthcare centre (PHCs) in the year 1947, we have progressed to have over 497 medical colleges and as per the data released by the Government of India on 31st March 2017 we have over 25650 PHCs today. Such a massive development India witnessed over the years that today we are considered a country with one of the largest medical education system in the world.
Especially in the tier-I cities, we have today world renowned multispeciality and superspeciality hospital chains and medical tourism is considered one of fastest growing sectors in India.
In search of affordable healthcare facilities more and more foreign patients prefer to visit India and the sector is projected to grow to $ 7-8 billion by the year 2020, according to a report by FICCI-KPMG.
However, the only refrain is that the quality healthcare is restricted to tier-1 cities only. In tier-2 and tier-3 cities there is a lack of standardised services. More pathetic is the situation in tier-4 towns, villages and rural areas where the lack of adequate healthcare structure is the biggest concern.
Even after a lot of efforts made in the last more than seven decades, the small towns and villages in India are totally dependent on government healthcare delivery system.
A land of villages, India undoubtedly needs a well-structured healthcare system to support the healthcare needs of massively increasing population.
According to the recent data from the National Health Profile 2018, of the total 10 lakh registered modern medicine doctors, around 80 percent reside in tier-1 and tier-2 cities. With highly overburdened and understaffed public hospitals, there is an urgent requirement to increase the number of highly-qualified medical professionals along with technology in rural areas and villages, for betterment of quality healthcare services.
Amid this scenario, it is also imperative to control the population and make family planning initiatives more accessible to the resource poor settings.
Of late, the country has also witnessed changing pattern of the diseases which is another area of concern. Earlier vector, air and water borne diseases such as plague, jaundice and typhoid contributed to high mortality rate. The Government and NGOs at that time would stress upon controlling the epidemics. Subsequently, the patter has changed to cure and later to prevention of such diseases.
The situation now has seen extreme transformation in the pattern of diseases with more and more diseases like dengue, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity becoming common.
The need of the hour is to ensure extensive private sector participation in the healthcare delivery and budget re-allocation. In comparison to the other countries, in India, the allocation of funds for healthcare infrastructure development has been very low.
Both the government and the private sector should think of developing secondary care hospitals all across the country to meet the requirement. The government must ensure enough budgetary allocations to promote secondary care hospitals to offer subsidies and concessions.
However, amid all these, the good news is that with one of the biggest government funded health scheme ‘Ayushman Bharat’ the country is moving towards inclusive healthcare for all. Under this initiative, the government plans to open 150,000 “health and wellness” centres by 2020, besides the programme makes poor families available health insurance for their treatment in the tertiary hospitals. Recently, air ambulance services are also making deep inroads in India, thanks to increasing private sector participation.
Obviously, we were most underdeveloped in terms of healthcare 70 years back, but today we are known as a land of opportunities. Growing at a brisk pace, the healthcare sector in India is poised to reach Rs. 8.6 trillion by 2022 and off-course it presents a huge opportunity for all.