INDIA’S HEALTH EMERGENCY HAS ONLY TAKEN A SHORT BREAK

Covid-19 has not gone away. Meanwhile, a host of other diseases are on the horizon. It is necessary to realise that health is a part of the right to life, a fundamental right.

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Health is possibly the most important component of the right to life, a fundamental right as accorded by the Constitution of India. With privacy having already been decreed by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right, it is just a matter of time before health is also incorporated as such, because there can be no assurance of life without the assurance of health.

As we have seen during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the right to life has been taken for a long, arduous ride. The deaths that swept across the country were an abomination and laid bare the completely devastated public health system of the country. Primary health centres (PHC) were found to be completely inadequate, with no infrastructure and not even a doctor.

Government hospitals, as well as renowned private hospitals came up short and could not even provide adequate oxygen to the patients. Covid-19 (SARS Cov-2) may be on a recess in many parts of the country, but it has not gone away. According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) latest study, we will probably have to live with Covid as we do with influenza.

The study has also revealed that neither vaccination nor any expectation of herd immunity is expected to bring Covid under control in the future. This is because of the emergence of the Delta variants that have defied initial treatment methods.

The multiple mutations of the virus have left researchers across the world dumbfounded and a third wave, at any time, will spell further disaster for India. To that end, there is immediate need for completely restructuring the public health system of the country.

The main area that has to be taken into consideration is the state of the PHCs. These are the first stops in the process of maintaining public health. There has to be massive budgetary allocation to install and upgrade infrastructure in PHCs.

More importantly, each PHC needs a doctor, as well as adequate supply of life saving medicines and allied equipment. Then there is the issue of integrating these PHCs with the district health systems, mu nicipalities and panchayats, as well as hospitals with advanced treatment equipment and facilities and doctors.

Each PHC has to be connected to the mainframe health infrastructure of the state. In India health is a state subject, but the pandemic proved how dependant India’s states are on the Centre. This was especially evident in the acute oxygen shortage at hospitals, as well as the lack of medical supplies these included basic things such as PPE kits and sanitizers as well as ventilators and, lastly, the supply of vaccines.

The cover story for this edition is about how health threats have not receded at all. In fact, a cocktail of several diseases (some seasonal) are now threatening to disrupt the apparent peace again. Diseases such as Japanese Encephalitis, dengue, even influenza can take pandemic proportions if the basic infrastructure remains as devastated as it is today. To tackle this there has to be, first, political will, followed by immense growth in technical strength.

At this point, India’s rural and semi-urban belts beVIEWS ON NEWS September 15, 2021 5 have like a Third World country, gasping for breath at each hammering from any major disease. If life is a human right, a constitutional right and a fundamental right, it is the responsibility of the governments to step up, accept responsibility and do the needful.

Political exigencies will come and go, but public health is a necessity that cannot be overlooked, with the fast changing landscape of infections. We have to remember that we need to start from scratch, create a new blueprint for the country and progress. Only good health will ensure better civility, law and order and even how people will live from the nursery to the crematorium. The government must take this as the only emergency