Context: Healthcare facilities across the country straddle different levels of efficiency and sufficiency. The impact of COVID-19 has shaken even States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu that traditionally did well in the area of healthcare. 

Current scenario

  • India has never spent more than 2% of its GDP on healthcare. 
    • The COVID-19 epidemic has been unprecedented in its impact on society.
    • This epidemic  has been concentrated in large cities and has also affected the middle class, and has become a matter of high priority.
    • One of the most positive impacts of this otherwise very damaging epidemic has been that it has opened the eyes of people to the importance of universal and robust public health services .
  • Public health services are understaffed, under-resourced and we don't have sufficient number of doctors and other resources
    • There is a need for everybody to be covered by quality healthcare, or for health services to be accessible to everyone.

Time is ripe to take forward the agenda of right to  healthcare

  • There is a huge amount of the cost of this whole pandemic, total lack of preparedness for it and that it can strike everybody. 
  • Inclusion in right to healthcare: The idea was that if we give immunisation and some antenatal care, that’s enough, but that’s not the case. We need very good disease surveillance, we need an integrated primary care system that can deliver in the field. 
    • We need tertiary care with the most sophisticated of ventilators. And we need surge capacity, meaning we need an excess redundant capacity that can take care of any health emergency that happens
  • Even after being understaffed and under-resourced, healthcare systems have really stretched themselves to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 epidemic. 
    • And in States such as Kerala of course, public health services have done a remarkable job of containing the spread of the epidemic, especially through their primary healthcare activities.
  • Public imagination is also beginning to change: Until now in the public imagination the model of healthcare has been  of large private hospitals. And generally, public health services, especially primary healthcare, have been kind of invisible and mostly neglected.
    • it can lead to a rejuvenation of public health services, because political will flows from the public.
  • Role of private sector: We need a private sector with much clearer regulatory regime and ways of contracting that are useful and it is most important that they supplement, not substitute, the strengths of the state.


  • Fragmented health system: We have one health system for the poor, another for the middle class and another for the rich and the super rich. 
    • We need to move from this fractured system towards a single healthcare system for everyone.
  • Political will: we need a system for universal healthcare, which is a complement to the right to healthcare kind of scenario. 

We need to be much more articulate about human rights and the fundamental issue, or else this burden will get unfairly pushed on to people. The ₹15,000 crore allotment for the health sector that was sanctioned, along with the first lockdown, is a welcome step. 


Image Source: The Hindu