18 February 2013
statesman news service
KOLKATA, 18 FEB: The country needs a “completely fresh approach” to health care Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said today, as an over-reliance on the private sector and lack of commitment from the state means it has gone “really, badly wrong”.
At a press conference this evening at the Taj Bengal hotel in Alipore to round off two days of discussions as part of his Kolkata Group workshop ~ an annual brainstorming session on pressing social issues for policymakers and activists ~ Mr Sen said the state needs to express a commitment to universal health care for all.
This could come in the form of legislation setting out a right to health, along the lines of the Right to Education Act, he said, although this wouldn’t in itself solve everything. “It alone will not cure the problem, and it will not become a perfect right to health just through the declaration. A number of ancillary things have to happen, including greater allocation of public funds to health care, which are woefully poor now.”
While other countries are moving to spend more resources on healt care, India is “totally stationary,” he said. “India is an outlier. I mean very little government commitment on expenditure and delivery.”
He said there is also “a very nasty and costly misunderstanding” that private health care can step in to bridge any health services gaps. There are also problems with relying on private medical insurance as a model, he said, pointing to difficulties that some people have been getting coverage if they have pre-existing conditions. “The reliance on private health care and the illusion that that can solve the problem is a major issue,” he said. “No country has been able to have a transition from bad health to good health on the basis of private healthcare.”
There are many good doctors working in the country, Mr Sen said. But he also expressed concern over “lack of professionalism in the medical community,” a problem he says needs to be tackled.
Mr Sen and his colleagues at the Kolkata Group also issued a declaration based on the debates they have had over the last couple of days. It not only called attention to the “abysmal state of health care” in the country, but also “the slow and very limited progress in women’s rights that includes a host of inequities, insecurities, and injustices.”The group in its declaration called upon the government to “recognise the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma Committee Report promoting women’s bodily integrity, dignity, and sexual autonomy.”
- Reliance on private healthcare an illusion: Amartya Sen (thehindu.com)