When it comes to healthcare in India we seem to have not made much progress. Despite government efforts to correct the situation, poor health still cripples the nation.
This is clearly evident with the number of TB deaths. Tuberculosis is an air-borne disease caused by bacteria which largely affects the lungs. It is the second most deadly infectious disease worldwide. India has the highest incidence of TB with approximately 2.2 million TB patients and at least 55 people dying of TB every hour.
And why is that, let’s find out:
A lot of TB cases in India have become drug resistant which means the diseased becomes immune to any regular medication and that’s why they need some other form of treatment. In simple words, the body becomes immune to the drugs and the drug no longer affects the bacteria.
As per a study conducted in 2015, India has atleast 63,000 patients which are multi drug resistant (MDR). Can this not be treated? Well, it can. Treating drug resistant TB has 2 major roadblocks. One being, the drugs are very expensive and two, they are not easily accessible. The medicines for treating DRTB are pretty expensive. Around 50 times more than that required to treat TB. Further, the current medication and drugs available in India are not helpful. Very few hospitals in India have access to the newly developed drugs that have successfully cured multi-drug resistant TB.
The past mistakes of the government and failed policies too, have an equal role to play in this. It was only in the year 2000 did the government take steps to cure the DRTB. In 1997, when the government had rolled out the DOTS programme (TB control program) they ignored the drug resistant patients which led to the proliferation.
While the world has moved on to digital systems for recording practically everything India still relies on paper for recording patient details. This can be a serious problem because lack of medical records can lead to duplication, false entries and one can only imagine the 100 issues it proposes. Particularly TB the number of misdiagnosed or undiagnosed patients could be 1 million because the entries weren’t logged in. While public hospitals are overburdened you’d think at least private ones might be careful with their records. But since these aren’t transparent nor monitored even they end up screwing patient records.
In a bid to control tuberculosis (TB), it is important to rapidly diagnose and treat TB patients. Lack of medical equipment and required infrastructure, causes an obvious delay in diagnosis. When private sectors test patients for TB, most of the time the results are inaccurate and the treatment is expensive. Since these tests are inaccurate the patients chances of infection increase drastically as they become prone to the medication, ultimately leading to the patient suffering and spending way more than he had budgeted.
There have been a number of cases reported in India where the doctor would recommend a set of medicines, but those end up not working for the patient. This would then be followed up by a new set of medicines and it would go on and on. This is when the patient’s body gets prone to such drugs. This erratic treatment programme and lack of trained doctors is the biggest bottleneck for eradicating TB in India.
This is due to the lack of funds the government is putting into research to provide better opportunities to improve the patient’s health. There are several WHO recommendations that can actually improve the effects and reduce the number of TB cases annually, however, India only follows six out of the 16 recommendations.
The major reason why the healthcare is so poor in India is lack of public investment in the sector. We spend only 4% of the national GDP on it. Despite TB being such a widespread disease in India, our nation spends the least among BRICS countries on TB patients. Ultimately a smaller budget has led to shortage of medical staff, inadequate facilities, untrained paramedics and midwives.
Further, we also lack laboratories to conduct quality assured and inexpensive tests. A per an expert group, the budget allocation in the health sector needs to be improvised. For instance, there is a need to allocate more funds to provide drugs free of cost and enhance the national capacity of the nation to produce more low costing drugs.
As per health experts, India needs double the investments to eliminate TB or not it would be impossible to achieve the set goal of completely eliminating TB by 2025.
The only way to eliminate any disease in India, is by having easy access to healthcare and spreading strong awareness campaigns on the disease, removing the stigma attached to it.