Skip to main content

Need for nationalisation? COVID-19 puts private healthcare services in doldrums

By Sandeep Pandey*
Ram Shankar met with a fatal hit-and-run accident in rural area of Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh on April 16, 2020 and was referred by the District Hospital to Trauma Centre of King George’s Medical University (KGMU) in Lucknow. He could not be admitted there and was referred to nearby Balrampur Hospital. From there he was referred to Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia hospital.
He was denied admission at these government facilities as only coronavirus affected patients were being admitted and beds had to be kept free for them. Leaving no choice for them the attendants had to take him to one private hospital after another because either it was too expensive or treatment was unsatisfactory.
After going through Almighty, Kamakhya, Charak, Maa and Madocks he finally landed at Galaxy Hospital in Thakurganj where Ram Shankar expired on the morning of April 21 but not before his relatives were made to cough up close to Rs 2 lakhs in all. The cost of using ventilator at Madocks was Rs 11,000 for a day but in the bill double the amount was charged. Ram Shankar belonged to an Other Backward Class with merely half an acre of land in his village.
Asghar, 35, who used to run a small shop from a kiosk in Dubagga, Lucknow, who was riding a motorcycle till a couple of days back, died on April 22, of some undiagnosed illness. The doctors of hospitals where he went were either unwilling or unable to treat him. It is a peculiar situation where some doctors or medical staff are unwilling to deal with patients for the fear of contracting coronavirus.
On April 23 Kiran went to get herself examined at Community Health Centre in Rampur Mathura of District Sitapur. She was asked to get some tests done at a private pathological laboratory at nearby Mehmoodabad. She was diagonsed of tuberculosis, given a strip of medicines and asked to buy more from the market.
Another patient came from Kanpur with a cardiac problem and sought admission to Lari Cardiology of KGMU. But he could not get admitted as every new patient needs to undergo a COVID-19 test to safeguard the essential cardiac care services. It is important to note that Lari Cardiology triages patients in wake of the pandemic so that entire cardiology facility does not face a risk of a shutdown or quarantine, bringing lifesaving services for the region to a halt.
Upon arrival, every patient is kept in a designated area with infrastructure and trained healthcare workers for such triaging while COVID-19 tests are done from within the KGMU. Only test reports done from KGMU are accepted here. Tests may take up to two days but turnaround time for report to come is reducing in every government facility. 
Upon negative test report, patient moves further in the regular cardiology care but only if it is a serious case. However, if test report is positive, then patient is triaged to regular care for COVID-19 positive people as per the government guidelines. 
Long-standing call from people who care about public health have fallen on deaf ears to stop privatization of public healthcare
It is no doubt paramount to ensure that infection control practices in every healthcare facility are strengthened to prevent transmission of hospital-borne infections. Before COVID-19, too, government hospitals were overburdened with burgeoning demands of healthcare needs. More worrying has been the fact that a significant number of diseases our populations and healthcare system deals with, is entirely preventable. 
Long-standing call from people who care about public health have fallen on deaf ears to stop privatization of public healthcare, to prioritise preventive healthcare and hold those corporations legally and financially liable who are knowingly selling products that cause diseases (or kill).
COVID-19 has put entire health system in spotlight where it is essentially the government run healthcare services that are struggling to withstand against the onslaught of potentially catastrophic pandemic. 
COVID-19 has put us in a situation where suddenly profit-making private healthcare industry is in doldrums. Entire hospitals have had to be shut down for quarantine for example. It is only the government healthcare services that are still running despite of looming threat of COVID-19.
We need to realize that in this moment of growing crises, we cannot afford that our government healthcare facilities should risk being shut down for quarantine, or healthcare workers face any undue risk of COVID-19.
But equally important is to ensure that while we try our best to prevent COVID-19 pandemic, we are not brewing more pandemics which could have been averted with timely and essential lifesaving care. On April 15, 2020, the Chief Minister of UP had asked authorities to “restart” emergency services in government hospitals, which were earlier suspended on March 25, 2020 to prevent the spread of coronavirus in hospitals.
People living with HIV or hepatitis C virus or active TB disease need uninterrupted treatment services. But due to lockdown, either health facilities were affected, or people were not able to go to the clinic to get their lifesaving medicines. There was some respite for HIV as National AIDS Control Organization of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had relaxed guidelines hours before the imposition of lockdown.
These guidelines enabled the volunteers among people living with HIV who stepped forward to home deliver antiretroviral drugs from government-run HIV clinics to over 45,000 people by early April 2020. But India has over 14 lakh people who are on lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.
---
*Magsaysay Award winning social and political activist

Comments

TRENDING

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

ASI has 'no funds' to protect five centuries old Goa church, a World Heritage Site

Counterview Desk
The century-old All-India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest Laity movement in Asia, has blamed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for neglecting the historic Bom Jesu church by keeping its ceilings  open to the vagaries weather, with no steps  taken to protect the five century old monument from damage on account of impending rains on the lame excuse that there are "no funds". In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AICU simultaneously asks the Government of India to devise a "comprehensive" national social security safety net, universal health Insurance and medical Infrastructure so that the “calamity” that has befalenl millions of migrant labour and jobless rural and urban poor in “the Covid pandemic-driven lockdown is “never repeated.”

Gujarat govt move for fewer Covid-19 tests 'pushing' people to edge: Activists, academics

By Our Representative
About 100 concerned citizens, including top social activists and experts, have strongly protested against the Gujarat government’s alleged move to “dictate” the medical community to “reduce” Covid-19 tests in order to suggest that the state has fewer number of cononavirus positive patients, stating, this is nothing but “criminal negligence” which would “push people towards death without their knowledge.”

Withdraw sedition charges against three young women activists: 1100 feminists

Counterview Desk
About 1,100 feminists from all over India – organisations and individuals across religion, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and genders – have issued a solidarity statement condemning what they have called “the targeted crackdown on Muslims and women activists in Delhi”, who were at the forefront of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Tablighis or Namaste Trump? Rupani must 'clarify' on origin of Covid-19 in Gujarat

By Mujahid Nafees* In his video communication on April 24, 2020, chief minister Vijay Rupani informed us that in the month of March the Gujarat government had quarantined 6,000 people returning from abroad in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. He further asserted that the spread of Covid-19 was caused by the tablighis returning from Nizamuddin in Delhi. His statements were widely publicized and given front page coverage by some local dailies.

Coping with Covid-19? Options before small, marginal farmers of rainfed regions

By Biswanath Sinha, Kuntal Mukherjee*
The global crisis due to Covid-19 has hit after reaching in western Europe. India’s response to curtail the spread of the disease was quite decisive. It announced a Janata curfew on the March 22, followed by a complete national lockdown from the midnight of March 24.

Roll back full lockdown, it's being used to 'brutally' assault, beat people: PUCL to Modi

By Our Representative India’s premier human rights organization, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), in a 3,600 word statement, has demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in consultation with chief ministers, should immediately consider rolling back of the full lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, insisting, if it all, India should “have calibrated, limited lockdown areas.”