Karnataka gets a healthcare alert

India’s healthcare is in poor shape. It has finished at the 145th position out of 195 countries that were ranked on the healthcare access and quality (HAQ) index. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) published in the medical journal The Lancet, India’s healthcare access and quality has improved over the decades. Its score rose from 30.7 in 1990 to 41.2 in 2016. Thus, its ranking improved from 153 in 1990 to 145 in 2016. However, the ‘improvement’ is hardly heartening. India’s healthcare access and quality is dismal compared to most of its neighbours, including Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and worse than Sub-Saharan Sudan and Equatorial Guinea. In South Asia, Bangladesh took credit for improving its healthcare most substantially. It rose from the 180th position in 1990 to the 132nd in 2016. The index was computed by taking into account the number of premature deaths in the country from a set of 32 diseases considered preventable with effective medical care. The GBD study also ranked India’s states. Goa and Kerala topped the ranking. Among the laggards are Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand (a score of 34.7) and Bihar (37). Worryingly, the gap between the poor performers and the toppers has increased substantially since 1990.

Karnataka’s score was 46.6. It thus finished in the 16th position among India’s 33 states. This is shocking and unacceptable. Karnataka is home to some of the country’s best doctors. It has scores of super-speciality hospitals that can give hospitals in advanced countries a run for their money. It is globally recognised as a medical tourism hub as even patients from the West head here to get treated. It has the largest number of medical colleges. There is no reason why Karnataka should fare so poorly on healthcare. 

Yet, it does. And it seems the reason might be that in the quest for profits, the functional part of our healthcare system caters only to rich patients and those from abroad. Treatment being expensive, hospitals are beyond the reach of the common woman and man. While profit margins are important to facilitate purchase and maintenance of high-tech medical equipment, this should not be the sole motivation behind setting up hospitals and providing treatment. Freeing India and its masses from diseases that are treatable and, in fact, preventable should be the motto. Healthcare authorities should take this p as their big challenge. Some years ago, the Karnataka high court directed private hospitals to provide free treatment to 20% of their in-patients who fall under the Below Poverty Line category. Are they doing so? 

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Karnataka gets a healthcare alert

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