A webinar was hosted by MeraDoc, a personalised healthcare platform that connects highly experienced health practitioners with people, on “Demystifying Indian Healthcare during COVID & Beyond” in association with IPE Global, Mahajan Imaging, and Heart Care Foundation of India. Dr. Harsh Mahajan, President, NATHEALTH and Founder, Mahajan Imaging anchored the discussion with the panel consisting of C.K. Mishra, Former Secretary, Government of India- Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, and Director, IPE Global and Brig. Dr. Arvind Lal, Chairman & Managing Director, Dr. Lal Path Labs. The deliberations touched upon all critical aspects of health and the current crisis.
Speaking at the session, C.K. Mishra said, “It is very unfortunate that we were caught unprepared in the 2nd wave. Partly also because we did not carry some of the lessons learnt from the first into the second. We, as a country have consistently refused to learn either from our past successes or failures. Therefore, as a step ahead, first it is important to have a focused attention on what went wrong and where; acknowledge mistakes and take appropriate corrective actions. The system needs to function in a more organised manner with better coordination between the public and private sector. Second, a quantum jump in healthcare investment is needed – both financial and physical resources as this is critical to handling crisis such as this.”
On the slow pace of vaccination Mishra did mention supply bottlenecks, vaccine hesitancy & ability to reach the arm as the primary reasons but at the same time sounded optimistic that if we become more methodical, India has the capability to manage better.
In a straightforward answer about increasing the public spend in healthcare to 2.5% of GDP in India, Mishra said that “looking at the current pace of around 1.4% of GDP (both public & private) in health, it is quite unlikely that we will reach this magic figure anytime soon. Though in the past six-seven years there has been a gradual increase, but what health sector needs is not a gradual but a quantum jump.”
Adding on to Mishra comments, Dr Lal also said that for the government to reach this magic figure of 2.5% of GDP by 2025, there needs to be additional spend of 1.2 lakh crore on heath every year. And, considering we have been falling short of this since 2018, this seems to be a tall order. Dr Lal suggested that “possibly it is time to consider channelising CSR funds from health sector into priority areas like – medicine, Infra, real resources, etc., for us to be better prepared in the future.”
Responding to Dr Mahajan’s query on the country’s virus preparedness, Dr Lal said “we need to understand that the second wave is not yet over. The recent crowds of people and PM Modi’s warning are an indication of how we are flouting the Covid norms. We Indians start celebrating too soon. We need to learn from devastation of the 2nd wave and understand that if this tail of 2nd wave is uncontrolled, it will give way to the third wave. And, that will be very unfortunate.” He also emphasised on the need for people to get vaccinated as this is only safe and viable option of protecting oneself.