The profit motive can’t defeat the covid pandemic in India
Public healthcare was neglected for a reliance on private services
India has never been prepared for a public health emergency of the scale of covid. No country has. But the government’s dislocated priorities have left the nation particularly vulnerable. It is now running short of basics, including oxygen tanks, ventilators, antiviral medication and hospital beds, with hundreds of thousands of new infections being recorded every day. Public health spending was dismally low to begin with, at just close to 1% of India’s gross domestic product. The country ranks 179th out of 189 on prioritization of healthcare in the government budget. It spends as much as donor-dependent nations like Sierra Leone on a per capita basis. The country’s medical facilities are so inadequate that overall hospitalization rates for the sick are among the lowest in the world: 3% to 4%, compared to an average 8% to 9% in middle-income countries and even higher elsewhere.