The article highlights the evolution of healthcare in India, starting with the recommendations of the Bhore Committee in the pre-independence era. It discusses the emergence of private healthcare providers in India, their contribution to the healthcare ecosystem, and the need to expand healthcare infrastructure to meet the demands of the population. The article also emphasizes the role of public-private partnerships in Indian healthcare and the need for cooperation between the two sectors.
Health and education are considered the pillars of society and are considered basic civil rights. A year before India gained independence, the Bhore Committee presented a report that became the basis on which India built its healthcare infrastructure, including primary health centers, secondary health centers, and district hospitals. These recommendations are aimed at providing preventive and curative care. Additionally, it was suggested that PHCs be built to serve 40,000 people and be manned by class IV workers such as chemists, sanitary inspectors, public health nurses, midwives, trained dais, and others.
In India, healthcare delivery was mostly controlled by the public sector from the 1950s through the 1980s, with a few trust hospitals located only in major cities. However, in 1983, India witnessed the emergence of the private sector in healthcare with the establishment of the first Apollo Hospital in Chennai by Dr. Prathap Reddy. Dr. Reddy used his training and experience to develop a modern healthcare infrastructure with state-of-the-art medical equipment on par with any developed country. This attracted medical talent from across India and abroad to provide best-in-class healthcare comparable to the best hospitals in the world.
The growth of the private healthcare ecosystem, which had the best healthcare infrastructure, attracted the best medical talent within and outside India to come and practice medicine. This led to a reverse brain drain, and India started generating significant foreign exchange through Medical Value Travel (MVT). India needs to expand its healthcare infrastructure to cater to the enhanced demands of the population and towards MVT.
Healthcare has huge employment generation potential, and it is the largest employer in the UK. India has seen a significant increase in the number of medical and nursing colleges in the public as well as private sectors, but India still needs a large number of healthcare personnel. We need to enhance their capacity not only in metropolises but also in smaller cities and towns.
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are a major challenge in the healthcare sector. It is crucial to devise a strategy from an early stage to prevent NCDs, as they are striking our population in their 30s and 40s. Encouraging regular preventive health checks and keeping control of those with diabetes and hypertension is imperative. Mental health is another critical area that needs to be looked at humanely.
As India becomes more urbanized, urban planning must go hand in hand with public health planning. It is unfortunate to see that many urban growth areas lack basic public health infrastructure. We regularly witness the deleterious effects of such gaps in health and urban planning, and we must act on this urgently.
During the pandemic, the public and private sectors collaborated to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) can be put to effective use, and they have a significant role to play in Indian healthcare. The Right to Health needs to be implemented while keeping the private sector financially viable so that they can grow, invest, and help build our healthcare infrastructure further and stay coordinated with global medical standards.