No infrastructure for universal health coverage in India, says report

Infrastructure for primary healthcare has decreased in the past decade

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Friday 26 September 2014


As India moves towards the goal of universal health coverage (UHC), its inadequate health infrastructure is going to pose major problems. In the past few years, the percentage of shortfall in basic infrastructure has increased, instead of declining, says a report  released Thursday.

Despite massive spending under the National Rural Health Mission, the shortfall in sub-centres increased by 10 per cent between 2005 and 2012. In primary health centres (PHCs), the shortfall was 9 per cent during the same period. Only community health centres (CHCs) saw a 10 per cent increase in infrastructure.

The India Infrastructure Report, 2013-14: The Road to Universal Health Coverage, prepared by Infrastructure Development Finance Company Ltd (IDFC), noted that low spending on health infrastructure has led to inadequacy in other facilities too. For example, in 2012, more than 25 per cent of sub-centres did not have regular water and electric supply. In the same year, more than 10 per cent of PHCs did not have regular water supply, and 8 per cent of them did not have electricity. About a third of PHCs did not have referral transport.

The country is also short on staff in primary healthcare. More than 90 per cent of CHCs did not have all the specialists required by their mandate. About 30 per cent did not have the required number of beds and only 20 per cent had a functional operation theatre. Nearly 90 per cent of the CHCs did not have a functioning stabilising unit for newborns.

"If the target of UHC has to become a reality, spending and maintaining health infrastructure has to be the main priority of the government. It will require a lot of money and time," said an official of the Union ministry of health and family welfare.

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