Parliamentary panel on Covid: Private hospitals charging huge sums, India’s health spending very poor

A Parliamentary panel on health has said in its report that with rising coronavirus cases and inadequate beds in government hospitals, private hospitals are charging exorbitant fees for treatment. The panel has demanded a sustainable pricing model must be brought in to help those suffering in the Covid-19 crisis.

This is the first report by any parliamentary committee on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, reported PTI.

The panel also noted that given India’s 1.3 billion population, the country’s spending on healthcare is abysmally low and added that the current system only poses further hurdles to effective response in the pandemic that has already claimed the lives of over 1,32,000 people in India.

“The committee, therefore, strongly recommends the government to increase its investments in the public healthcare system and make consistent efforts to achieve the National Health Policy targets of expenditure up to 2.5 per cent of GDP within two years as the set time frame of year 2025 is far away and the public health cannot be jeopardised till that time schedule,” the report stated.

The Parliamentary panel headed by Ram Gopal Yadav submitted the report on ‘Outbreak of Pandemic Covid-19 and its Management’ to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday.

The National Health Policy 2017 has set a target of government expenditure on healthcare up to 2.5% of GDP by 2025 from just 1.15% in 2017.

Stating that the public had to undergo trauma and distress due to absence of a dedicated healthcare system, the committee observed that the number of government hospital beds in the country were not adequate to handle the increasing number of Covid and non-Covid patients.

“… Cost of health service delivery increased due to absence of specific guidelines for COVID treatment in private hospitals as a result of which patients were charged exorbitant fees,” the committee noted in the report.

Stressing on the need for better partnership between the government and private hospitals in wake of the pandemic and shortage of state-run healthcare facilities, the report said, “The Committee is of the view that arriving at a sustainable pricing model to treat Covid patients could have averted many deaths.”

The committee believes healthcare should never be limited to only those who can afford to pay but should move towards the noble vision of universal health coverage. For this to happen, the government needs to be considerate and support the private health care sector, the report said.

The committee was all praise for healthcare workers and doctors for being on frontline in handling of the deadly virus and said they should have defined working hours, predictably functioning reliever rosters and scheduled off-duty days.

The doctors, who have laid down their lives in fight against the pandemic, must be acknowledged as martyrs and their families be adequately compensated, it suggested in the report.

(With PTI inputs)

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