Kerala leads the way to become model; healthcare leaders rue regional discrepancy

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Healthcare service providers congregated on the last day of the ‘Gratitude Week – A Tribute to Health Guardians’ by Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council praised the government’s effort to provide cashless secondary and tertiary care but emphasized that increasing public spending in healthcare, especially primary care, will be key to improve access.

“The Gini coefficient in Kerala is unlike any other state and that is a result of sustained investment in social sectors since 1957. Kerala has the best macro health indicators in all of India as well as OECD countries,” says Dr Harish Pillai, CEO, Aster India at Aster DM Healthcare.

Emphasizing that healthcare services cannot stop functioning even in a pandemic, Dr M.R. Rajagopal, Chairman, Pallium India & Director, Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences says, “A lot of healthcare institutions succumbed to the panic of the pandemic. Kerala is better than other states but not perfect, and I must commend the leadership and involvement of community and ASHA workers. Kerala has a state-level palliative care policy and about 450 non-governmental organisations are working in the state to provide palliative care to people.”

Dr. Dharminder Nagar, Managing Director, Paras Healthcare says, “There are huge regional discrepancies when it comes to healthcare access; the challenge is to create a system that addresses these regional imbalances, we haven’t been able to bridge even 1% of this gap.”

Dr. Dinesh Batra, Director, Cygnus Ujala Hospital says, “There is a serious lack of emergency services in tier 2 and tier 3 cities other than the ones related to maternity. In the peripheral towns of Delhi, lack of affordability for private healthcare didn’t allow it to grow. Schemes like Ayushman Bharat will go a long way in improving accessibility of healthcare services.”

“The pandemic should act as a collective wake up call for the country. Efforts such as Ayushman Bharat are commendable – Ayushman Bharat enables data gathering which helps in identifying and analysing patterns of disease, consumption, etc. and can address the district-level disparity. We need to balance schemes like Ayushman Bharat and primary care – we talk of defence as a strategic subject but healthcare does not feature as a matter of strategic importance. There will be a huge difference in India before and after COVID and lawmakers should make it the most important point in their agenda,” says Dr Pillai.