THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 12 June 2020 (Needed, a transfusion for public health care (The Hindu))

Needed, a transfusion for public health care (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Role of private hospitals in healthcare system


  • A news channel in India alleged recently that several private hospitals in the
    country were “exposed” by a “sting operation” to be levying fees in excess when
    COVID-19 patients went to them for care.
  • It is not clear why a “sting operation” was necessary; the high cost of
    medical care in the top hospitals of the country is well known.
  • The debate now is whether such exorbitant rates are justified during a
    pandemic such as the one we are in the midst of, or indeed, ever.

Private hospitals:

  • Before we address this question, however, an equally important question
    arises: why do we have so many private hospitals in a poor country such as
  • We have more hospital beds in the private sector than in the public sector.
  • It is estimated that there are……………………………….


A mirror to public care:

  • The reason for this abundance of private health care is obviously the lack of
    adequate public health care.
  • This situation has developed due to two main reasons.
  • Since Independence, India has, quite rightly, focused attention on the larger
  • The priority in a developing country would be the provision of primary care at
    the peripheral level, preventive measures, immunisation, maternity and
    paediatric care as well as dealing with common infections such as tuberculosis.
  • We have done this well, resulting in impressive improvements in many
    health-care indices in the last few decades.
  • However, not enough hospital beds and specialised facilities were provided by
    the public sector during this time.
  • At the same time, the burgeoning middle class and increasing wealth produced
    an explosion in the demand for good quality health care.
  • Private medicine was quick to capitalise on this demand.

Dominance of private:

  • The second reason for the dominance of private medicine in India is the lack
    of adequate investment in public health.
  • The Indian government spends an abysmally low 1.3% of GDP on public health
    care, which is woefully inadequate.
  • Allocation has to be at least double this to address some of our pressing
  • Greater transparency and tighter administration are necessary to ensure that
    our resources are utilised appropriately.
  • Specialists should be adequately compensated to obviate their need for private

No uniformity:

  • Private medicine in India is by no means uniform.
  • It is estimated that there are more than one million unqualified medical
    practitioners, mostly in the rural areas.
  • Most of them provide basic health care, charging a modest fee.
  • Some may have claims of ……………………………..


Quality in medical services:

  • The wide range of quality in medical services in India reflects the wide range
    of income and wealth in India.
  • It is estimated that the wealth of the top 1% in India is four times the
    combined wealth of the bottom 70%.
  • The wealthy demand, pay for, and often get, world-class health care.
  • The middle class, seeing what is possible, is beginning to demand similar care
    at affordable cost.
  • The poorer 70% are left to the vagaries and mercy of an unpredictable public
    health-care system and low cost charlatans.


  • The United States, despite spending more than 15% of its enormous GDP on
    health care in the form of largely insurance-based private medicine, has poorer
    health-care indices than Europe.
  • In Europe the government-funded universal health care (e.g. The National
    Health Service of the United Kingdom) is available.
  • But the per capita health-care expenditure in Europe is substantially less
    than in the U.S.

What needs to be done:

  • The public health-care system desperately needs higher government spending.
  • Health care cannot be left to private medicine in a developing country, or
    indeed, in any country.
  • Health-care spending by the government must be appropriate, based on evidence,
    and transparent and accountable.
  • Training of doctors and health-care workers also need to be the responsibility
    of the government mainly.
  • Recent reforms in the selection of medical students need to be scrutinised to
    see if they are having the desired result.
  • Private hospitals and institutions will need to be regulated.
  • Costing and auditing of care and procedures need to be done by independent
  • This will not only ensure appropriate care at the right cost but also prevent
    unreasonable demands of suspicious patients and family.

The crisis now:

  • No hospital, business, institution or individual should profiteer from a
    national calamity such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Hospitals, like any other institution, have a social responsibility to provide
    care in times of need.
  • But one should be also aware of the actual costs involved which have to be
  • The cost of medical ……………………………



  • But if losses become unsustainable, they may be forced to lay off
    employees, close beds or even entire hospitals, like any other business.
  • That will hardly benefit anyone.

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Prelims Questions:

Q1.  With reference to the State of India’s Environment, 2020 report,
consider the following statements:
1. It was released by Greenpeace.
2. According to the report there were more than 50 lakh internal displacements
in India in 2019, the highest in the world.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2



Mains Questions:
Q1.  What are the steps …………………………………..?

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