Fight for the finite-THE HINDU-17-03-2020
Health-care resources, limited to begin with, are even more so when under stress. At a time when the disease did not have a name, and much less by way of character, in mainland China, the rapidly climbing numbers went far beyond the capacity of the country’s renowned industry , and the health systems struggled to cope. Reports indicate that in Italy, which has emerged the hub of the epidemic outside of China, the strain on health systems is massive. With India crossing 100 positive cases, it is impossible to ignore the question about whether the health system is robust enough to meet this emergency.
As per the National Health Profile, 2019, collated by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence unit of the Directorate General of Health Services, there has been no significant change in health-care expenditure since 2009-2010. A WHO bulletin of 2018 records that out-of-pocket payments remain common in India, which in 2014, was estimated at 62% of total health expenditure. While questioning whether these incremental efforts are sufficient, one needs to factor in the substantial skew in different States in terms of public sector health infrastructure and wherewithal. There is evidence to show that increased public spending on health care has resulted in less financial hardship for communities and better health outcomes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a promise to increase public health spending to 2.5 % of GDP by 2025. His government would do well to treat this epidemic as an opportunity to drastically scale up budgetary allocations for health to facilitate expansion of capacity.