Poor healthcare at grass root level across India: NHRC asks Union Health Secretary to reply

The NHRC passed the order after considering a detailed petition filed by Supreme Court advocate and human rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes onlyPexels

Concerned by the poor healthcare facilities being provided to people at grass root level across states, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, calling for an action taken report within a period of four weeks.

The NHRC passed the order after considering a detailed petition filed by Supreme Court advocate and human rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy.

The NHRC also acknowledged that there was indeed a lack of proper healthcare facilities and infrastructure across various states.

Highlighting a case in Odisha, Tripathy said it was not only Tapu Misra, an actor of yesteryear, who faced lack of proper healthcare, but also many others who have to shift out of Odisha.

PHCs (Primary Health Centres), CHCs (Community Health Centres) and DHHs (District Headquarters Hospitals) in Odisha are facing a plethora of problems, he said. "Patients are forced to lie on floors and at times naked. It is a sorry state of affairs in Odisha," he claimed.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a priority commitment within the Agenda for 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Tripathy said and highlighted the sufferings of the common man on account of improper functioning of PHCs and CHCs across various states.

Tripathy cited many incidents of deaths of poor victims across various states, either due to lack of proper health, infrastructure, poor healthcare or lack of adequate staff including doctors and paramedics.

He has sought the intervention of the commission for ensuring basic human rights by ensuring proper healthcare, adequate infrastructure and staff at all PHCs, CHCs and DHHs, with compulsory attendance of staff ensured through electronic mode, effective measures for stopping private practice of serving doctors by ensuring NPA to them and through transparent transfer and promotion, and establishing super-specialty hospitals for every hundred kilometres with NABH accreditation.

PHCs remain the cornerstone in a strong healthcare system worldwide and the rich countries have worked on improving it and are now reaping the benefits, he said. An integrated pathway connecting PHCs, CHCs, district hospitals and tertiary medical college hospitals, he added. Spending on health as a percentage of GDP needs to be increased, Tripathy contended.

PHCs, CHCs and DHHs all over India are facing a series of problems causing healthcare complications to the common man, he said. The NRHM and other national, state health policies and guidelines are being flouted, he added.

The UN mandate for healthcare has also been blatantly violated as the blame game continues between the Centre and states as health is a state subject, Tripathy alleged.

He requested the NHRC to ensure adequate infrastructure and staff at all the PHCs, CHCs and district headquarter hospitals. The plea also draws the attention of the NHRC to ensure transparent procurement policy, communication facilities, ambulance, OTs, safe buildings, waste management with hygienic atmosphere with required medicines, injections etc for all the PHCs and CHCs in India.

He said that inadequate access to essential healthcare services in the northeast region of India, which comprises border states such as Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, is an issue of major concern and underlines the urgency of the need for a robust primary healthcare system in the region.

There is a 46 per cent shortage of PHCs, and 83 per cent shortage of CHCs, according to a Lok Sabha reply on 12 March 2021. As many as 887 community health centres are required in Bihar while only 150 are in place, he said.

In Himachal Pradesh, though there are hospitals in Kullu and Lahul and Spiti, ICU beds are not available there. The healthcare system in the entire state has been discussed in Davinder Sharma and another vs State Of Himachal Pradesh on 26 September, 2020 with High Court directives but the state has not yet done the needful, Tripathy's plea said.

In West Bengal, healthcare for the residents of Sunderbans, which is home to close to five million people, has been battered by four tropical cyclones, he said.

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