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Medical Hiatus

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Minister Chandan Ram Das felt uneasy during Assembly proceedings and was taken to the Doon Hospital and Medical College. There was no cardiologist there, so he was referred to the private Max Hospital. From there he was taken to a hospital in Gurgaon. In a nutshell, a government minister did not find medical facilities in the state satisfactory enough. It was obviously a personal decision, but also reflected the plight of ordinary folk in obtaining proper medical care within the state.

Most people belonging to the lower income group seek care in government hospitals. Despite improvements over the years, if the Doon Hospital is to be taken as an example, the facilities can barely cope with the rush of patients. The private sector has also developed considerable capacity in the state but, with higher charges, serves the better off people. The Ayushman Bharat Scheme was launched, nationwide, to utilise the capacity of private hospitals for the BPL category of people. During the tenure of CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, the state launched the Atal Ayushman Scheme to provide universal coverage, an exemplary move. However, there have been problems as few private hospitals – mostly charitable ones – were willing to accept Ayushman rates.

So, while government hospitals lack facilities, doctors and staff, the corporate hospitals are too expensive. There is a growing health insurance sector but not only are premiums high, rarely are payouts anywhere near the amount insured. This indicates there still needs a lot to be done to provide quality medical care to all. For long it has been suggested that ministers, senior civil servants and others directly involved with governance should only be provided free medical care in government hospitals. It would provide the motivation among them to bring hospitals up to the mark. As it is, at present, India is among the countries with low budgetary allocation for the health sector. But the culture is one of ‘special arrangements’ for the elite, be it ‘Gandhian leaders’ like Sonia Gandhi, or Communist ones like Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, who seek treatment abroad. If they were to put their trust in government hospitals as a matter of principle, conditions would definitely improve. But, staying alive is more important and they can’t be blamed. Also, every year there are reports of doctors graduating from Uttarakhand’s medical colleges bailing out on the bonds to serve here for a given period, despite having obtained education at subsidised rates. Hopefully, the Chandan Ram Das incident will come as a wakeup call for the Dhami Government and efforts made to fill the gaps in the Health Sector.