Health Matters directed by Shikha Jhingan duration 77 minutes
If you love Hindi masala movies, you are very likely to be engrossed by the documentary under review. Every scene leaves one with a feeling of dj vu . Not surprisingly. The documentary is on India's health care sector. Private and public health care systems have been pitted against each other. The film also has a happy ending: a poor man receives Rs 3 lakh worth of free treatment at a public hospital and is cured.
But this patient is among the fortunate few. The country's health care system is in shambles. Not surprisingly, when the government puts in just 0.9 per cent of the country's gdp into health care. This has paved the way for the entry of private players. The director makes it clear that she favours the public sector.
There are also scenes from public health care facilities where treatment is free but takes time. Corruption and laziness makes the situation worse. Doctors are generally absent from the primary health centres both in rural and urban areas. Medicines and diagnostic tests, which should ideally be available free to the patients, are not there. The doctors make money from sending patients to pathology laboratories from which they receive cuts.
While India's public health system flounders, the government tom-toms a new way to make more money: health tourism. Many in the government and the corporate world believe that India could be the health care destination for the world. But then, how often do celebrities turn to foreign experts during medical exigencies?
Expansion of insurance facilities is often held up as another indicator to show that India's health sector is on the right track. But how many can actually avail insurance facilities?
The documentary rightly asks: what about the people from our villages and small towns who flock to the cities for treatment because they have no hospitals? Perhaps, they too are health tourists, with a critical difference though: they cannot pay. Surely, it's not ethical to promise others what we cannot give to our own people.
Overall, however, the film gives a bad report to the private sector. People are forced to take recourse to this sector because the public sector has no space for them. It is time now to renew belief in the public health system and demand that it be strengthened.
Health Matters is an intelligent documentary that puts its message across clearly: it is time for the government to provide health care to the people. The director can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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