Promoting Private Healthcare
Ideally healthcare and education should be an exclusive concern of the government. These are the two sectors that come under universal, essential public services. No one can avoid the two services, so the government should, ideally speaking, make arrangements for that. But there is always a gap between the real and the ideal; and this gap, in Kashmir, when we talk of healthcare is just huge. ‘The requirement of 1 bed / 1000 population as defined by World Health Organization (WHO) for low-income countries is much lower in J&K” reads a Healthcare Investment Policy Document.
It further adds that “in J&K, where the private sector is still in infancy and almost 80% of the healthcare facilities are being provided by the public sector, the overcrowding of the government health institutions has led to compromise in the quality of care. In government institutions, out of pocket expenditure is quite substantial as the patients have to purchase the medicines and other essential items from the market. This entails a huge burden on poor households.”
These, and other statistical snippets, build a case for private investments in healthcare. Of course, we need better facilities for our people. We need required number of beds, latest diagnostic equipment, more human resource. We know government cannot provide us all we require. Hence it is axiomatic that private players should come in and do the needful. But there are certain riders.
Healthcare is a compulsion, no one is as helpless as he is when sick. Ask a bed ridden person and he would sell his entire property to be able to perambulate. In such a desperate situation it becomes easier for unscrupulous elements to exploit people. Here we need to invoke a public awareness, and government vigilance.
The element of exploitation in the private healthcare sector should be eliminated to the possible extent. Those who are in this sector should participate voluntarily in making is just, humane, and affordable.
What is also needed is an emphasis on health insurance. Private sector can work better if more people are covered for diseases. The initiative taken by the government to universalise healthcare insurance is revolutionary. The bottlenecks in that programme need to be removed. If we have people insured, and there is a vibrant private healthcare sector, working in tandem with the public healthcare, things would be far better than they are currently.