NEW DELHI: Forget issues related to quality and cost of healthcare; Delhi, a city of 16 million, has an even more fundamental problem, according to a recent study: its hospitals, maternity centres, and child-welfare centres—all are concentrated in the central and southwestern parts of the city.
The population in these areas is predominantly middle-class (or rich), having access to private healthcare. “Nearly 85% of government health services are concentrated in 10% of Delhi’s 1,440 sq km,” said Dhunu Roy of Hazards Centre, an organization focusing on developmental and environmental issues.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) does not agree. K.D. Akolia, additional commissioner (health), MCD, said health centres and hospitals are planned on the basis of population distribution.
The Hazards Centre study says there are very few hospitals on the city’s periphery, where migrants, usually itinerant labourers, live. Migrants, rich and poor, are susceptible to local strains of diseases, and if they do not receive proper medical treatment, they could develop complications or the diseases could spread.
“There have been reports of higher incidence of tuberculosis complications among rural migrants in India,” said Nerges Mistry, joint director of the Foundation for Research in Community Health, a non-profit public health organization. A new, deadly strain of tuberculosis, resistant to the best antibiotic, has emerged recently.
In a paper that was published recently, Chandrima B. Chatterjee, a researcher with Mumbai-based health research organization CEHAT, studied the health effects of displacement. “There is no data on migrant health in India,” the paper says, “but the small samples we studied have shown that stress and unhygienic conditions that displaced people are subject to, makes them more vulnerable to various strains of disease.”
According to figures from the 2001 Census, the most recent available, migrant population in Delhi grew 46.34% between 1991 and 2001. Today, an estimated 665 migrants enter the capital territory every day. Akolia said the administration was “extremely concerned about migrant health,” and that its facilities were “open to all sections (of the population).”
According to data, the Delhi government had planned for 64,000 hospital beds by 2001. By 2005, it had only 30,667 beds, as per figures provided by the Delhi Development Authority, the local planning and development agency.