Novel Corona Virus scare has kept the health ministry on its toes. If it spreads like an epidemic, will our rural public healthcare be managed?
The India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) scanned the health infrastructure data published in the National Health Profile 2019 and found that government hospitals would run out of beds in rural India even if 0.03 percent of the rural population is hit by the virus.
The DIU scanned the numbers for government hospitals, beds available in the hospitals and the number of allopathic doctors working in the rural areas and here is what the data shows:
According to Census 2011, roughly 69 percent of the country lives in rural areas. The National Health Profile 2019 data shows, of India’s 26,000 hospitals, roughly 21,000 were in rural areas and 5,000 in urban areas.
This means that 73% of the country’s government hospitals are located in rural areas. Now, this might give a positive picture of the almost equal distribution of govt hospitals, however, the reality is totally different.
To understand this, we need to see the number of beds & Doctors available in rural areas.
Of the total 7.1 lac hospital beds in the government hospitals, 2.6 lac were in rural areas and 4.5 lac in urban areas. This means that for 70 percent of the population residing in rural areas, only 36 percent of the government hospital beds are available.
The rural-urban divide is crystal clear here. On average, India has one bed for almost every 1,700 people in government hospitals. In rural India, this is 3,100 people per bed – almost twice as much as the national average.
For urban areas, this number is roughly 800 people per bed, which is almost half the national average and four times less than the average rural area.
This means that the queue for getting a bed in rural areas would be four times longer than the ones in urban areas.
The situation is the worst in Bihar, where, for every one bed in a rural government hospital there were more than 16,000 people. This is because, for 10 crore people living in rural Bihar, there are only 5500 beds available in the government hospital.
Among the big states, Tamil Nadu is the best performer, where one hospital bed is available in a government hospital for every 800 people. It is to be noted that the rural population of Tamil Nadu is almost one-third of Bihar, but it has eight times more beds in its government hospitals.
Like the beds, data on doctors also portrays a similar picture of rural India. The pressure of handling patients in rural India is twice as much as the national average.
On average, for every 10,000 people in the country, there is one allopathic doctor available. In rural India, one doctor is available for every 26,000 people.
West Bengal turns out to be the worst state in this regard. According to the Rural Health Statistics 2019, roughly 881 doctors are available in rural areas of West Bengal that has an enormous population of 6.2 crores. This means that for every 70,000 people in the rural areas of West Bengal, there is only one doctor available in the government hospitals.
West Bengal is followed by Jharkhand and Bihar, where one doctor is available for more than 50,000 people.