KOZHIKODE: While the state government is in a fix over the turmoil in private health sector with the nurses declaring an indefinite agitation and hospital owners challenging them, experts feel it should strengthen the public healthcare system presently catering to only 20 to 30 per cent of the population. The state is investing only 1 to 1.2 percentage of GDP in the sector. The dominant public health sector existed earlier played a key role among other elements that helped the state as a development model on a par with international standards.
Now, the extreme commercialisation resulting in cutthroat competition, promising astronomic salary packages for specialists, engaging coteries for business promotion and extracting huge sums from patients violating all medical ethics, they point out. It is high time state intervened to bring some order. Dr K.P. Aravindan, an emeritus professor at Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, told DC that large-scale privatisation had ruined the system. For the last two decades, the private sector has grown much more endangering the health sector through unethical practices.
The agitation of nurses and debate on capitation fee on medical students are fruits of their unbridled nurturing, he added. “The government share should be increased to at least 3 percent of the GDP within five years,” he said. “It is time for bringing out a new health policy to revert to the good olden days and a roadmap for strengthening the public health sector. The private-public share of patient reach should be brought to 50:50.”
“If the government is serious, the public would turn to public hospitals. We have proved it to some extent in education. Hope the government will extend all out support to the public sector,” he added. The left-leaning health experts have a feeling that the withdrawal from the primary health care has brought it to a stagnant stage. A fever outbreak is enough to paralyse the state, he said, adding that the health systems should be treated and rejuvenated.
“What we need is not AIMS like institutions, but low-cost hospitals affordable to common man both in public and private sector,” he added. "Now, we have more 7-star hospitals competing for the wealthy customers, which never turn to the primary healthcare sector.” Many feel that the state is mimicking the US model which is not ideal for it. Leaving it entirely to private investors will worsen the situation. “These elite hospitals are engaged only in tertiary care for high cost and even if they attend primary care that too they will do at a high-cost," said Dr Mahroof Raj.
“Now there is no service element, but only business interest. It is like any other industry.” Dr V.P. Sasidharan, a former principal of MCH, Kozhikode, told DC that neglect to the primary sector would result in the spread of diseases and alarming increase in the number of patients as it happened when fever spread across the state. “What we need is not disease care, but preventive care. We need doctors for the people and the villages. When a physician gets appointed in a primary health centre, his next step is how to escape,” he says. “Such free-for-all attitude of the government has already resulted in popping up of mafia elements.”