Govt must take steps to revitalise health sector confidence
The daily newspapers of Manipur these days quite frequently carry distressing news of flaring violent conflicts between members of the public and hospital healthcare professionals or the administration of a hospital after some tragic clinic-based incident has occurred. The latest shut down at JNIMS is the current occurrence of a state hospital, an essential service, denying services because of an incident in which a lady lost her life after child birth. Very often, rampant private practice by state employed healthcare professionals have been implicated in repeated allegations of professional negligence in the public hospitals and health centres of Manipur. Public perceptions of the public healthcare system in Manipur may be said to have reached an abysmal low.
And yet, in 2012, Manipur was the recipient of the top award for its performance in health sector among small States at the 10th annual India Today ranking of the 30 States based on improvement over the past year during a States Conclave held at Hyatt Regency in New Delhi. Health and Family Welfare Minister of Manipur Phungzathang Tonsing received the award from the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar at the India Today Conclave.
Recently, the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen observed that the status of the health services in India is “dismal”, and cautioned against over-reliance on the private sector in a country where the basic public health services were not available. Prof. Sen was interacting with journalists last Wednesday on the completion of the Eleventh Kolkata Group Workshop organised by Pratichi (India) Trust, Harvard Global Equity Initiative and UNICEF India. According to him, “health care is not something that is supported by economic growth but [it] is something that supports economic growth.”
Manipur may put into practice some very important lessons learnt by other Asian countries in the healthcare sector but it has followed commercial principles far too much. This is a lost opportunity. We have placed the greatest reliance on private healthcare at the lowest level of society. Though no one is against private healthcare per se, the public most definitely do not want it to replace public healthcare.
Entering into a futile and vicious blame game between the public and health sector is not the way to go. So far, the government seems to be a mere audience to this drama, denying its role or responsibility. The government of Manipur must put its mind seriously and sincerely towards instilling public confidence in our public health system, while ensuring that public healthcare settings like referral and district hospitals including health centres, sub-centres and dispensaries are accorded the highest priority in terms of infrastructure, staff pay structure, service provision and facilities.
Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy