Health sector unions and social organisations are demanding strengthening of public health services in Maharashtra. They have come together to form a joint initiative, called the “Alliance for Defence of Health Services and Rights”, which includes various NGOs working in the field of health, along with trade unions and federations of health sector employees in Maharashtra.
The alliance is being formally launched on November 26 by organising a ‘Convention for commitment to build joint movement on Health Rights’ (Nirdhaar Parishad) in Mumbai. This convention will finalise the key demands to be taken up in the coming period and will initiate a sustained combined movement by all involved organisations, to resolve various long pending issues related to health rights of the public as well as rights of health sector employees, Dr Anant Phadke of Jan Arogya Abhiyaan said.
Key issues being raised by the alliance include inadequate budget for healthcare, lack of guaranteed health services, massive shortage of essential medicines, largescale vacant posts, corruption and lack of transparency in health systems, adverse policies of contractualisation and privatisation, poor working conditions for frontline health staff, and most importantly, the need to restore political will, which is urgently required to improve the public health system, said Dr Abhijit More, one of the convenors of the alliance.
“Keeping in view the massive and continued shortage of medicines in government hospitals and health centres across the state, radical changes need to be made in the drug procurement and distribution system in Maharashtra, which must be on war-footing. These changes should be on the lines of effective medicine systems in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Kerala,” said More.
They have also demanded that current policies of relying on contractual appointments and privatisation must be abolished. Instead, a new comprehensive Health Humanpower Policy for the state, based on strengthening public health services with regular staff appointments, must be formulated and implemented. This would ensure provision of adequate compensation to all health workers and doctors at various levels, good working conditions and periodic promotions.
Vacant posts of employees at all levels in the government health system at various levels should be filled promptly and an open counselling system should be used to ensure responsiveness and fairness in postings and transfers, they demanded.
They have also opposed all forms of privatisation of health services. The alliance has also demanded a major increase in the state health budget: Only 0.48 per cent of the state’s GDP is spent on public health. The health budget is only 3.64 per cent of the total budget of the Maharashtra government.
According to the 2018-19 budget, per capita public health spending in Maharashtra is only Rs 1,001 rupees, while the national average is Rs 1,560.