Divya Manocha & Jasma Bakshi, 26/6/20
India’s healthcare system receives nearly 3.53% of GDP. To put this into perspective, India ranks 141st on a list of countries ranked in order of total health expenditure per capita. It follows countries including Namibia, Ghana and the Philippines. The measly healthcare budget, in combination with a large population, poverty and a lack of hygiene and sanitation has laid a red carpet for the coronavirus pandemic.
With over 500,000 Covid cases, India ranks fourth in terms of the number of cases, with Maharashtra and Delhi suffering immensely. The situation in hospitals across India is the same: there are too few hospital beds relative to the number of people requiring hospital care. A Guardian article reports that hospitals in Mumbai have had two people sharing a single bed while planetariums, stadiums and train coaches are being converted into COVID-19 wards. Yes, you read that correctly. To add fuel to the fire, there are nearly 1,404 people to every doctor in India. The situation is worse for the migrant workers as the Janata Curfew forced them to return to their hometowns after having lost their jobs. There are almost 11,000 people per doctor in such areas.
With the spurt in Covid cases in Delhi and neighbouring states, there is a shortage of beds and proper treatments in hospitals of Delhi. This has created a burden in the hospitals and the health infrastructure is not able to withstand the pressure. With the number of cases and fatalities rising, the statistics are not only indicative of India’s inability to manage the pandemic, but also signal danger for those with long term terminal illnesses, such as cancer and other chronic diseases. India is already dealing with a shortage of nurses and midwives, registered nurses and midwives are a few more than 2 million, many of who are not trained in caring and treating patients during a serious worldwide pandemic. The WHO mandates that the population to nurse ratio to be 1:483, which clearly shows a shortage. There are also people like Vijay Khabale, a Mumbai municipal spokesperson who claims that the number of beds are sufficient, but the coordination is not. He also said, “We are expecting that within a day or two that the cases will begin to flatten and then begin to decrease,” and that “we have it under control.” The Guardian article that reported this was published on May 29th. Today, it is June 24th and the cases continue to rise mercilessly.
The media is abound with stories of people with suspected coronavirus infections who were turned away from hospitals and left helpless in the arms of family members who are unable to go close to them to provide help. It is high time to provide additional helping hands to the needy and suffering people of India. Had the healthcare system been equipped with more doctors, ventilators and beds, there would have been fewer goodbyes. Time to reboot the healthcare system.