Health minister, his big agenda for India
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Shantanu Guha Ray is a Wharton-trained, award-winning journalist who has specialised - for over two and a half decades - in reporting on investigative news features, business features and human interest reports. He scooped the coal scam in 2011 (much before the CAG made the scandal public) and the GMR-led Delhi airport scam the following year. He also won the Washington Press Club award for his reporting on dangers of asbestos, a global initiative. In 2015, he won the Ramnath Goenka award for his writings in cricket and the Laadli award for his reporting on cervical cancer deaths in India. His reporting on water-related issues helped him won the Wash award. LESS ... MORE
Ever since he took charge, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya has virtually inaugurated two Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants in a Gujarat hospital. This is to meet India’s oxygen demand, especially when the third wave of Pandemic is looming like a Damocles sword on a billion plus population.
Mandaviya knows he must upgrade overall medical infrastructure to meet future challenges, especially ensuring funds in every district of India for buying critical care medical requirements in an emergency. India has a ₹23,000 crore package for Covid-19 emergency response.
India’s healthcare system is battling various issues, including the low number of institutions and less-than-adequate human resources. The healthcare structure is split into three – primary, secondary and tertiary – care services. The Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) says delivery of primary health care is provided to those in the hinterland through sub-centre, primary health centre (PHC), and community health centre (CHC). Secondary care is delivered through district and sub-district hospitals and tertiary care is extended at regional/central level institutions or through super specialty hospitals.
The minister knows it’s important to improve primary health care as a public good, especially when India continues to struggle with deficient infrastructure (read well-equipped medical institutes) for quite some time. And then, the rate of building such medical teaching or training facilities remains awfully less. Once, the government said private medical colleges must be built on at least five acres of land. A few private colleges were built in rural areas, and doctors refused to work full time. It is only now that the newly-constituted National Medical Commission (NMC) scrapped the five acre requirement for setting up a medical college and curtailed the minimum number of beds required as a proportion of the number of seats in the college.
Mandaviya is aware that India does not have enough trained manpower – doctors, nurses, paramedics and primary healthcare workers – in the medical stream. The situation is worse in the hinterland, home to 66 per cent of India’s population.
I am sure the minister is aware that in India, the doctor-patient ratio remains abysmally low, merely 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people. The World Health Organisation (WHO) average is 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people. Mandaviya knows serving a population of 1.4 billion remains a gigantic task in itself. He must rise to the occasion.