public health emergency

Health for All

Stronger universal public health services, not privatization, will deliver #HealthForAll

COVID-19 has made us all realize how important are stronger public health services for everyone. Our individual health security is dependent on other people’s health security too – and the same for social security. An article by Shobha Shukla & Bobby Ramakant. When the world has come to a grinding halt due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and it is majorly the public health services that are on the frontline of the efforts to contain it (with most of the private health industry ‘safe distancing’ by being shut or busy profit-minting), the writing is crystal clear on the wall: only stronger universal public health could be our saviour. Hope World Health Assembly of Health Ministers of countries globally, will echo this strongly. COVID-19 has also proven how any public health emergency can cause havoc to the economy. If we want sustainable and resilient economies, we need stronger public health systems where no-one-is-left-behind. And there is no health security without social security for everyone. But the government’s plan to reboot the economy includes spending INR 8100 crores (INR 81 billion) “to provide 30% viability gap funding (VGF) instead of the current 20% to boost private sector investment in social sector infrastructure creation” like schools and hospitals. It is high time we demand that profiteering from ill-health cannot be tolerated. Healthcare must never be dependent on one’s capacity to pay. ‘Trade must enhance the capacity of nations to provide quality public healthcare and not restrict it’, demanded a #NoGoingBack manifesto endorsed by millions of nurses and workers of the unions around the world. COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to learn the harder way, why what ails one – ails us all. An individual’s health security is interdependent on everyone else and on the planet’s health too. The spread of the coronavirus from the first confirmed case 4.5 months back in China to over 4.7 million cases globally, has brought home the wisdom of the old oft-quoted public health mantra: an infectious disease anywhere is an infectious disease everywhere. But in the brutally unequal and unjust world we live in, we are…

Aditi ghosh

Women bear the brunt of humanitarian disasters, including COVID-19

The United Nations (UN) data estimates that 168 million people worldwide will need assistance in 2020 to deal with humanitarian crises, including natural disasters, extreme climate events, conflicts and infectious disease outbreaks. 25% of these will be women and girls of reproductive age. And they are the ones who are disproportionately affected during any humanitarian disaster – from being more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications, to facing increased risks of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections, as well as sexual and gender-based violence. “60% of the preventable maternal deaths and 53% under five deaths take place in conflict and natural disaster settings, as life-saving family planning interventions are too often deprioritised in a crisis situation,” said Aditi Ghosh, Deputy Director of Humanitarian Programme, at International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), who was a keynote speaker at the 7th #APCRSHR10 Dialogues, co-hosted by the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR10) and CNS. Health services for women remain crucial even in a crisis Aditi cites the real life example of Amelia, who was 7 months pregnant when an earthquake hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi island in 2018. Amelia had to literally run for her life (during that advanced stage of pregnancy) to safer grounds where she gave early birth. This life-threatening experience shattered her. She was desperate to get some contraceptive to prevent another pregnancy. This was a daunting task as all the family planning clinics had either been damaged or were closed, and she was living in a displacement camp high up on a hill. But luck was on her side. She was able to receive an injectable contraceptive from Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA), which had launched a humanitarian response through mobile health clinics and had started providing family planning services, operating from tents located near the displacement camps. Over the course of this response, IPPA provided more than 15,000 contraceptives and reached out to more than 20,000 people. This is just one example of why sexual and reproductive health services are so important in a crisis situation. And yet, too often…


Need for immediate nationalisation of health services

Ram Shankar met with a fatal hit-and-run accident in rural area of Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh on 16 April, 2020 and was referred by the District Hospital to Trauma Centre of King George’s Medical University (KGMU) in Lucknow. He could not be admitted there and was referred to nearby Balrampur Hospital. From there he was referred to Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. He was denied admission at these government facilities as only coronavirus affected patients were being admitted and beds had to be kept free for them. Leaving no choice for them the attendants had to take him to one private hospital after another because either it was too expensive or treatment was unsatisfactory. After going through Almighty, Kamakhya, Charak, Maa and Madocks he finally landed at Galaxy Hospital in Thakurganj where Ram Shankar expired on the morning of 21 April but not before his relatives were made to cough up close to Rs. 2 lakhs in all. The cost of using ventilator at Madocks was Rs. 11,000 for a day but in the bill double the amount was charged. Ram Shankar belonged to an Other Backward Class with merely half an acre of land in his village. 35 years old Asghar who used to run a small shop from a kiosk in Dubagga, Lucknow, who was riding a motorcycle till a couple of days back, died on 22 April of some undiagnosed illness. The doctors of hospitals where he went were either unwilling or unable to treat him. It is a peculiar situation where some doctors or medical staff are unwilling to deal with patients for the fear of contracting coronavirus. On 23 April Kiran went to get herself examined at Community Health Centre in Rampur Mathura of District Sitapur. She was asked to get some tests done at a private pathological laboratory at nearby Mehmoodabad. She was diagonsed of tuberculosis, given a strip of medicines and asked to buy more from the market. Another patient came from Kanpur with a cardiac problem and sought admission to Lari Cardiology of KGMU. But he could not get admitted as…