Amidst the country battling the intense second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Policy Matrix, a public policy think based out of New Delhi organized a webinar on the topic of “Right to Health: Making healthcare accessible, available and affordable”.
A panel of experts which included members of the parliament, academicians of international repute, impact investor in the area of healthcare, healthcare entrepreneurs and public health experts provided crucial insights into the state of healthcare in India and deliberated on the future roadmap. The session was moderated by Ms Anoo Bhuyan, a senior journalist reporting on healthcare and currently the Special Correspondent, IndiaSpend.
Mr Krishna Devrayalu Lavu, Hon. Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) spoke about the need for right to health paradigm with particular focus on execution stratgey. “Legislation alone cannot solve the ills of healthcare in India as we have seen in the case of Right to Education”, he further added. He also spike about the pertaining questions polimakers have to grapple with, like how can health be made affordable and accessible? How can good quality healthcare be taken to every nook and corner of India? Where will the additional funds for investments into the healthcare system come from? Should the government look towards compulsory healthcare insurance schemes or should they invest in rural healthcare?
Mr Sameer Wagle, the managing director of the Asian Healthcare Fund spoke about current India’s meagre spending on healthcare and the need to hike it substantially. He spoke about the systemic problems in healthcare brought to the surface by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to augment and re-prioritise the resources.
“Till now healthcare has not been a political issue because the impact from spending on healthcare is not seen immediately. The dividends from investment into healthcare is something that does not come in mere 5 years and therefore governments do not focus on it. This form of thinking has to be changed”, he further added.
Prof Manoj Kumar Jha, Hon. Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and a professor at Delhi University spoke about the neglect of healthcare by successive governments as investment in healthcare does not give immediate electoral rewards. Laying down various constitutional provisions, he spoke about right to health as a constitutional right. He also assured his support as a member of the legislative to any initiative being taken on this.
Aparajita Sarangi, Hon. Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) about the need to make healthcare an issue to work on round the year and not only during a pandemic. She spoke about the importance of human resource developmentin healthcare which involves investment in education, training and resource allocation.
She also spoke about her experience of handling human resources as an administrator.She also spoke about the current government’s efforts towards increasing the percentage of spending on healthcare to 2.5% of India’s GDP.
Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya, a clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Well Cornell Medical College in New York spoke about the technical expertise of the doctors in India given the wide range of issues and cases they handle. She spoke about the need to invest a lot more in good quality education and training for budding doctors and the need to have an integrated approach towards healthcare involving AYUSH practitioners and Ayurveda doctors.
Dr. Tarlochan Singh Kler, Chairman at Fortis Heart Hospital spoke about the dire need for more qualified medical practitioners in India. He also added that the private sector in India takes care of 70% of India’s healthcare and therefore the private sector cannot be ignored.
Ms. Ananya Awasthi, Assistant Director at Harvard School of Public Health, India Research Centre spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the middle and upper-middle class of the society and echoed the words of previous panelists that India must spend more on public health. Also spoke about the need for public health manifesto for all political parties.
The Q/A session following the panel discuss witnessed active engagment from the audience and the panelists.