Rapid survey highlights lack of access to free medicines in Karnataka government hospitals 

Survey by Sarvatrika Arogya Andolana Karnataka (SAAK) finds patients visiting government hospitals spend an average of  ₹ 433 per visit out of pocket

August 07, 2023 09:37 pm | Updated August 08, 2023 09:48 am IST - Bengaluru

The survey was done through oral enquiry with 600 patients in pharmacies outside government hospitals in 12 districts.

The survey was done through oral enquiry with 600 patients in pharmacies outside government hospitals in 12 districts. | Photo Credit: File photo

A rapid survey by Sarvatrika Arogya Andolana Karnataka (SAAK), has found that patients visiting government hospitals are spending an average ₹433 per visit out-of-pocket to buy medicines.

SAAK is a network of various civil society and progressive organisations, workers’ unions, activists, and researchers working for the health rights of people.

The survey done through oral enquiry with 600 patients in pharmacies outside government hospitals in 12 districts, found that overall these patients had spent ₹2,58,809 on buying medicines during the survey period from July 1 to July 19.

Giving details about the survey, SAAK members Manohar Elavarthi, Nisha Gulur, and Prasanna Saligram said irrespective of the type of facility and the geography, prescriptions are being written by government doctors and people are forced to purchase the medicines out-of-pocket.

12 districts

“During the survey period, our members spent half an hour at pharmacies outside government healthcare facilities randomly chosen in the 12 districts - Kolar, Dharwad, Davangere, Ballari, Bidar, Hassan, Kalaburgi, Vijayanagar,, Bengaluru Urban, Belagavi, Chikkaballapur, and Chikamagalur. We spoke to patients who came out of the hospital directly to the pharmacy. The spending on medicines ranged between ₹ 433 and ₹ 1,800 per visit by the patients surveyed. The highest out-of-pocket expenditure for patients was found in Bengaluru hospitals,” said Mr. Elavarthi.

Mr. Saligram demanded that the government should take concrete steps to effectively implement free access to medicines in its true spirit on the lines of Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation. “What is the purpose of having government hospitals if patients are forced to buy even basic medicines from outside? The Tamil Nadu government’s measures should be emulated in Karnataka without any delay,” he said.

“The government should commit to enacting ‘Right to Health Care’ legislation in Karnataka on the lines of Rajasthan. The public health system should be strengthened by increasing the expenditure on health to 2.5% of Karnataka’s GDP from the existing 0.8% as recommended by the Karnataka health vision committee,” he asserted.

While Ms. Nisha Gulur demanded that the government should provide nutritional support to HIV and Tuberculosis patients, members - Karibasappa and Shanthamma -  said the government should end privatisation of health care through Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). “The need for documentation like Aadhaar Card, BPL Card, etc. for availing health service should be done away with,” they said.

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