Healthcare in India has two faces, one of plush and high-tech private hospitals and healthcare centres in metros and large towns, and the other of government-run healthcare centres all over the country. The government-run facilities are always under extreme pressure, with more patients streaming than they can handle, dilapidated living conditions and creaking equipment, doctors and nursing staff who are stretched to the end of their tether at all times, and volatile patients and their families who frequently resort to violence and intimidatory measures when faced with dire situations.
This face of Indian healthcare took on a decidedly ugly face during the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially during the first two waves, when Covid vaccinations were still not done. The shortage of beds, doctors, nurses and oxygen crippled the system, and the battle took a mental toll not only on patients but even doctors, nurses, and managers of India’s hospitals. Since then, things have improved, and India handled the third and fourth waves of Covid-19 very well, and the vaccination program has also been effective.
But there are several challenges that remain extant. A population of 1.4 billion, a large chunk of which is poor and cannot afford to pay for healthcare or even for medical insurance, is at the crux of the problem. A crumbling public healthcare infrastructure, not only in villages and small towns, but even in larger cities and metros, has made healthcare access on time very difficult. Estimates suggest the ratio of allopathic doctors to people in India is 1:1511. Plus, there is always a shortage of funding, wide disparity in quality between urban and rural facilities, not enough insurance coverage, low understanding and awareness of preventive care, delays in diagnosis, etc.
While there has been a lot of concerted effort both by the government and private industry, yet it simply has not been enough. Lifestyle changes have also contributed to an increase of diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, among other things. To deliberate on these challenges and work towards long-term solutions, Mint brings together experts across all stakeholders in the ecosystem, for a day of brainstorming and sharing of ideas.