Healthcare is the most important, but highly neglected sector in India. Neither people nor the government focus their attention adequately on the issue of healthcare. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee have always said that health and education is their priority, but it’s time to make this into a reality.
In order to address the challenges in the healthcare sector, one needs to have primary understanding of healthcare. No individual or nation can treat all sick people
unless you make this a basic principle of your policies. Then you have to device methodologies as to how to keep people healthy. Though we have controlled infectious diseases more or less completely, the threat from lifestyle diseases is grave and affecting young and productive people. Today, a 30-year-old is like a 50-year-old. The best solution is prevention. You have to spread awareness about health disciple, promote preventive check-ups and rehab wellness programmes.
The best way to provide good medical care to people is to leave the ownership of health to the individual. People in India still think that it is always the other person who will get sick and not them. This thinking among people needs to change. The government should encourage health insurance by creating awareness and giving tax incentives.
At the time of giving birth certificate, let the government collect `500 per kid for health insurance. This will insure that baby. The government should allow schools to charge `50 with tuition fee; this will insure your kid. These measures will take the number of insured to 10 per cent of the population. Once it reaches that mark, it will gain its own momentum.
The government should also use India’s edge in information technology (IT) to revolutionise healthcare. With IT, you can take expert advise to people who are already delivering healthcare, such as general practitioners and small- and medium-nursing homes. This will help them to deliver better healthcare.
Though the government claims that healthcare is the most important sector, it does not encourage the sector like it encourages sectors like IT. The government has given around 55,000 acres of land to the IT and manufacturing sectors, but it is punishing the most important sectors — health and education.
There are three major challenges that the industry is facing. India needs to add one lakh beds with an investment of `50,000 crores in the next two decades. We have to double the number of doctors from 0.7 million to 1.5 million; triple nurses from 0.8 million to 2.5 million; quadruple paramedics from 2.5 million to 10 million. To achieve this, we have to add more medical and nursing colleges.
Adding more colleges and more hospitals will create employment for thousands of people. If the government accords infrastructure status to the healthcare sector, it will allow healthcare companies to raise low-cost long-term finances to fund setting up of hospitals, which have long gestation periods.
The government should also enable the manufacturing of costly medical equipment in India. This will reduce our costs and the benefit can be passed on to people.
I am sure that all these incentives to the healthcare sector would allow the Prime Minister to achieve 10 per cent growth rate.
Prathap C. Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group