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Govt Report Reveals Grim Picture of Health Infrastructure

The Rural Health Statistics (2020-21) show a rise in the alarming shortage of specialists in Community Health Centres in rural areas.
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Representational use only.

After bringing the Indian healthcare system to the brink of a collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic could have been the wake-up call the government needed to strengthen the medical infrastructure. However, the latest findings of Rural Health Statistics show the country is still far behind in providing basic medical facilities to its people. In fact, a year into the pandemic in 2021, the country fared worse on various healthcare parametres compared to 2020.

Released by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) in early May,the Rural Health Statistics (2020-2021) show a rise in the alarming shortage of specialists in Community Health Centres (CHCs) in rural areas. In 2021, CHCs in rural areas reported a shortage of a whopping 79.9% in the number of specialists compared to a shortage of 76.2% in 2020. In 2021, there was a shortfall of 83.2% of surgeons, 74.2% of obstetricians & gynaecologists, 82.2% of physicians and 80.6% of paediatricians in 5,481 CHCs in rural areas. Taken together, the CHCs in rural and urban areas reported a shortage of 76.2% in the number of specialists required in 2021 (same as 2020).

The shortfall in the number of radiographers in CHCs in rural and urban areas also increased from 54.5% in 2020 to 58% in 2021. The shortage in other areas is also far from over. In 2021, there was a shortage of 15.9% pharmacists, 24.9% laboratory technicians and 8.3% nursing staff in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and CHCs.

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The state of health infrastructure is even more worrisome, the report highlighted. The number of beds in Sub-Divisional/District Hospitals and District Hospitals in the country increased by a meagre 0.5% in 2021. Only 34.2% PHCs function 24*7 in rural areas, while only 34.7% have an operation theatre. Only 72.4% PHCs and 78.6 CHCs in rural areas have a labour room. Only 67.2% CHCs (the highest healthcare facility in the three-tier rural healthcare facility) have a functional stabilisation unit for newborns.

The latest findings of the RHS also once more highlighted that the rural health infrastructure was overburdened with respect to the number of people it is supposed to serve.

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Rural Health Statistics, 2020-2021

Further, inadequate infrastructure and insufficient health personnel have emerged as the leading problemkeeping women from accessing medical care, as per the latest findings of National Family Health Survey. The data showed over 60% of women face trouble in accessing healthcare.

The writer is a Delhi-based independent researcher.

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