Doctors are scapegoats for India’s failing health system
The attacks on doctors are a symptom of a bigger public health crisis. India suffers from an acute doctors’ shortage, with just one physician for every 1,800 people. The government is also miserly about its public health spending, allocating just 1.4 per cent of gross domestic product, compared with 3.1 per cent in China. As a result, India’s public healthcare system — on which working-class and poor Indians still rely — has neither the manpower nor equipment to provide a reasonable standard of care for the seriously ill and injured patients seeking treatment.
Many patients are turned away from public hospitals for lack of beds, and even when they are seen, doctors have little time to spend with each patient. Waiting lists for emergency, life-saving surgery can be anything from six months to two years long. Frontline doctors end up as the scapegoats. According to a study carried out last year at a large tertiary hospital in New Delhi, 40 per cent of the medical residents there had been exposed to violence at work in the previous 12 months. The Indian Medical Association has said that 75 per cent of Indian doctors have been attacked physically or verbally by patients or families at some point.
For now, young doctors are focusing on the need for better protection — through more security staff at hospitals, or self-defence training. But genuine security is likely to come only when the government recognises that the public health crisis is a drag on its economic aspirations, and takes the right steps to cure it.
Source: Financial Times