Private hospitals and corporates could adopt villages for better healthcare, a noted Indian expert suggested on Monday.
Speaking at the convocation ceremony of a key university in the southern Indian state of Madras, C. Rangarajan, a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, said such adoption could help develop comprehensive medical facilities at the community level. That would also help bridge the widening gap between urban and rural healthcare.
Rangarajan is now the Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Indian Prime Minister.
Pointing to the shocking levels of malnutrition and infant mortality obtaining in the country, as revealed by the National Family Health Survey, Rangarajan called for "introspection, and more importantly, right action at all levels to improve the prevailing health condition of our country."
If a country like India did badly on indicators such as immunisation, ante- and post-natal care or child nutrition, it only showed that the government had failed in its basic duty of ensuring a minimum standard of health for the population.
"It is as much a comment on the paucity of resources as an indictment of the delivery of healthcare," he said.
Healthcare was unfortunately not at the centre of public policy debates in India though the scene was quite disturbing, Rangarajan noted, recalling that as chairman of the 12th Finance Commission, he had recommended special grants to states that lagged behind in health indicators.
Larger expenditure in social sectors such as health and effective utilisation of the funds so allocated were required if the country was to see better health standards.
The official also stressed the need to provide incentives for doctors to serve in rural areas.
As per the World Health Organisation data, India had only 0.6 doctors per 1,000 of population, whereas in China, which was roughly the same size, the ratio was 1: 1,000.
China also had three times the number of hospital beds in India.
The ratio of nurses to patients was 0.8 per 1,000 in India as opposed to a ratio of 1:20 in Sri Lanka. Even in terms of health workers, India lagged behind Bangladesh which had 0.31 workers per 1,000 of population compared to a ratio of 0.05: 1,000 here, Rangarajan said.
Such a critical gap — in terms of health infrastructure and health personnel — could not be filled only by the Government alone and had to be supported by supply of skilled manpower and development of facilities by the private sector, Rangarajan stressed.