Afflicted by the disease of “reformititis”, the Union Government is pursuing a policy of blind privatisation in the health sector and working in the direction of dismantling the country’s public healthcare system.
CPI (M) leader Brinda Karath launched upon this stinging criticism of the UPA Government’s health policy in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday while initiating a discussion on the working of the health ministry.
“Ill health is wealth” is the thinking governing today’s policy makers and the government is unconcerned about the need to “tame the private sector”, Karath said.
Fifty children die every half an hour and every seven minutes there is one woman dead, while estimates are that 40% of Indians are in debt because of health expenditure. What about the social accountability of the government? What about its role as a regulator? Karath asked. Charging private hospitals of indulging in “over care”, Karath regretted the fact that terms such as “medical tourism” and “medical industry” were so freely being bandied about. With corporates coming to the health sector, it has become a profit-making industry," she said.
Karat expressed serious concern over the declining share of public expenditure on health in the GDP and said government's priorities were towards promoting private sector hospital projects giving them liberal tax incentives. India, she pointed out, was just about a notch ahead over smaller countries like Myanmar, Sudan and Cambodia in terms of public health expenditure.
Karath said the government’s campaign on promoting breast-feeding was fine, but the larger issue of nutrition for women needed to be tackled. She pointed out that maternal mortality amounted to only 12% of the deaths of women. Substantially more women are dying because of anaemia, malaria and chickengunya, she said.