Healthcare woes: India has 1 govt hospital bed for 879 people

Some states present better while others provide far worse pictures.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: April 8, 2014 5:21 pm

India has one government hospital bed for 879 people on average,a ratio that starts looking nearly 10 times as bad in a state like Bihar,but improves dramatically in Manipur.

Andhra Pradesh,where every tenth Indian student of medicine studies,has a government hospital bed for every 2,230 people. 

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The estimates for January 1,2013 were given to Lok Sabha by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad Friday. As per the goals of the 12th Plan,India needs another 5,96,589 hospital beds to reach the target of 500 beds per 10,00,000 people. 

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This goal is far below the world average of 30 hospital beds per 10,000 population,but above the World Health Organisation recommendation of 1.9 beds per 1,000 population.

The report of the high level expert group of the Planning Commission headed by Dr K S Reddy which was released in 2011 noted that of the 1.37 million hospital beds available in the country,8,33,000 were in the private sector. India spends a little over 4 per cent of its GDP on healthcare,but the bulk of it comprises pocket expenditure.

Azad said that public health is a state subject. Under the National Rural Health Mission,the central government provides financial support to states to strengthen their health systems including new constructions and upgradation of public health facilities based on the requirement. Central government has decided to open eight new AIIMSes,and to upgrade 19 medical colleges and institutions to provide tertiery healthcare services that would add about 11,390 additional beds.

A recent report of the Indian Institute of Health Care and Informatics titled ‘Understanding Healthcare Access in India’ reported that nearly three of every four hospital beds in the country were in private,urban hospitals,a reality that forced the government’s hand on including public-private partnerships as one of the modalities of the National Health Mission in urban areas.

Given the shortcomings of the public health system,a large,mostly unorganised poorly regulated private sector has stepped in to fulfill unmet health needs. An appallingly large number of healthcare providers and facilities from the private and unorganised sectors are exploiting the lack of regulatory mechanisms and causing poor health outcomes,says the Plan panel report.

The health ministry’s efforts to push through a uniform Clinical Establishments Regulation Act has been only partially successful with just a handful of states – Arunachal Pradesh,Himachal Pradesh,Mizoram,Sikkim,Uttar Pradesh,Rajasthan and Jharkhand implementing it,apart from union territories. States like West Bengal have cited their own laws to stay out of the net.

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