The Lancet has several online-first articles today about India's healthcare system. Here is one: The health system in India: the underserved majority. Excerpt:
India has undergone impressive economic growth in recent decades but it still fails to provide affordable health care to its people. India spends about 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, the lowest among BRICS nations. Most Indians have no choice but to go to private providers. The country has among the highest out-of-pocket expenditures on medical treatment.
Health ministry officials say there has been a reduction in such expenditure as far as the public sector is concerned. The latest official data on this comes from the 71st round of India's National Sample Survey (NSS), which was done between January and June 2014. Financial constraint was the reason most often cited for seeking treatment without medical advice. Next on the list was “no medical facility available in neighbourhood”.
One marker of the iniquitous access to health care is the stream of patients from far-away villages to premier public hospitals, such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.
Shyam Vir Prajapati, a farmer from Tihar village in Uttar Pradesh's Jalaun district, had come to India's capital with his wife because Sudama, their 13-year-old son, had cancer. Prajapati has faith only in doctors in the cancer hospital inside the AIIMS complex.
He told The Lancet that his local PHC could not quite diagnose the problem when Sudama started falling sick from April this year. The family took the boy to Gwalior, a city 170 km away. There, they made the rounds of several private doctors and hospitals before Sudama was diagnosed with blood cancer. The family was not confident that they would get the best medical treatment in Gwalior and they travelled to AIIMS.
Prajapati earns less than US$100 a month. But he is luckier than most because on arrival at AIIMS, he came in touch with the NGO CanKids, who focus on child cancer patients. They helped the family get some food and a cubicle to live in for less than $0·50 a month.
“The treatment here is good and it is free because it is a government hospital. But I had already spent 2 lakh rupees [$3074] earlier and in Delhi too, there are other costs. I don't have any health insurance. I have borrowed money from my relatives and sold off cattle, goats, calves that I possessed. I will have to stay for several months more while Sudama is being treated”, Prajapati told The Lancet.