Policy & Issues

Strengthen, don't privatise

Opposing Maharashtra Government’s proposal to privatise key services in medical college hospitals, activists and non-government organisations have come together to demand better management of medical facilities instead of privatisation.

The Maharashtra government has recently floated a proposal to privatise radiology services (like CT scan, MRI etc.) and laboratory services in 14 Government Medical College hospitals, and all district hospitals across Maharashtra. “Under this proposal the public health system, which is already neglected by the State government will collapse completely, leaving poor people at the mercy of profit-seeking private hospitals. It will adversely affect not only poor people but also the middle-class, for whom private healthcare is becoming increasingly unaffordable these days,” Dr. Abhijit More a co-convenor of the Jan Arogya Abhiyan said.

During a State-level convention in Mumbai social organizations, health-activists, healthcare professionals across Maharashtra expressed their disapproval and anger, against the State’s proposal. Speaking at the convention Dr. Abhay Shukla, coordinator - Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI) pointed towards larger design for privatisation of the healthcare system in the State.

“Maharashtra State Government is planning to hand over huge sums of public money to insurance companies and large private hospitals through a flawed Private-Public Partnership (PPP). This involves large scale public finances being given to corporate hospitals without any standardisation or regulation of the services, and no protection of patients’ rights. At the same time, government is planning to privatise its most revenue generating units in public hospitals like radiology services and laboratory services,” he said.

The convention saw concerned medical health workers vociferously expressing their concern about the public health system, “Planning Commission is set to double the public health expenditure in India from the current 1.2 per cent to 2.5 per cent of GDP during the 12th Five Year Plan. This would mean an additional budgetary availability to central funds of more than Rs.80, 000 crore annually for National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scheme," said Dr Anant Phadke, Jan Arogya Abhiyan. He added, “Maharashtra Government should take advantage of this situation by coming up with innovative ways, schemes to strengthen public health system rather than resorting to privatisation in a covert attempt to reap profits through liaison with corporate players at the cost of peoples’ healthcare needs. The so-called PPP has no real economic, social, managerial justification. The justificatins given by health officials does not stand on merit.”

Emphasising the need for ‘better utilization of skilled doctors and technicians’, Mr. Sanjay Salunke of the Laboratory Technicians’ Union, Mumbai said, “Instead of privatisation, government should focus on better management and modernisation of public hospital laboratories. Technicians were not even taken into confidence before such a proposal…also privatization would hamper learning in fields like radiology, microbiology, pathology, and biochemistry departments in the Government Medical College hospitals.”

“The high level Expert Group formed by the Planning Commission is recommending a system of Universal Health care for every citizen with strong emphasis on strengthening our public health system and abolition of user fees in all public hospitals. On the other hand, our learned ministers from the Maharashtra Government are considering seriously regressive steps which would weaken public hospitals and are likely to deny health rights to large number of citizens,” said Sonya Gill of the Akhil Bharatiya Janawadi Mahila Sanghatana (AIDWA).

The convention not only unanimously denounced the proposal, but also passed a resolution for a state-wide campaign to oppose the proposal and raise the issues with the government.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 2:43:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/policy-and-issues/strengthen-dont-privatise/article3204134.ece

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