Dr Dharminder Nagar, MD, Paras Healthcare
India is a land of disparities. Arguably nothing is as noteworthy among the disparities as the unequal distribution of wealth and priviledge, and the skewed availability of critical services like healthcare to citizens. Access to quality healthcare is determined not just by the ability to afford but also by the ability to reside in an urban metropolis.
Consider this, India is home to the third largest pool of billionaires in the world with 111 billionaires in 2016 and has fourth largest pool of ultra-high-net worth households which have in excess of 100 million US dollars in assets. There is nothing wrong in having wealth or being wealthy. In fact, many of these billionaires and high net worth individuals want to actively contribute towards social causes, including health and education. Many lend support social causes or needy individuals in their own way. Unfortunately, there are not enough institutional - public or private - means to constructively utliIize resources from such individuals towards achieving major development goals.
Small initiatives here and there notwithstanding, there is hardly any institutionalized mechanism or vehicle through which they can contribute to the cause of improving healthcare in India, and making it more accessible.
There is an imminent need to encourage Individual Social Responsibility (ISR) in the country. This also necessitates the need to create mechanisms and fore that help channelize the energy of millions of socially aware individuals into making a differenence to the society.
Individual Social Responsibility
Individual Social Responsibility or ISR is going beyond looking what the government is not doing and what others are not delivering. It is taking upon oneself the responsibility of providing deficient services and filling the gaps and voids in delivery through individual initiative.
ISR can be and should be promoted in the country by having such viable models where businessmen can move forward, either as individuals or as corporates, and embark on a journey to impact the health of the people in meaningful and sustainable way.
Sample this. There is a very realistic opportunity to provide insurance to each and every person in the country with just about Rs 10,000- 15,000 crore of premium per annum and there are a number of wealthy people in the country who may be more than willing to contribute money towards this cause but there is no mechanism for them to that.
There needs to be a long term approach to such attempts. The problem with corporate sector right now is that there is no sustainability in the CSR efforts. The CSR activities right now are very myopic in nature having very little to show as results. Most CSR programs are hurriedly conceived to meet the mandated CSR goals. Naturally, they lack long term vision, constructive approach and sustainable action.
To institute more viable and effective CSR initiatives, the private sector must look at the possibilites of engineering private-social partnerships. The private sector will have to be innovative and hold hands of NGOs and other bodies in the social sector to bring about a change in the healthcare delivery scenario in the country. Some of the social sector agencies and NGOs are doing a fair bit can be really become valuable partners in a tie-up with healthcare providers.
The existing hospital chains and other healthcare providers can also partner with each other to leverage and to compliment each others' strengths and reach out to new geographies so as to be able to provide quality services to those who have hitherto been left out. They are currently providing service only in those areas where they themselves exist. Some of these healthcare providers are sitting in silos which they must come out of. There also this fear among many of them that if they join hands with another company or entity, the credit will be shared. Such attitude has to change and Individual Social Responsibility must drive them to get over the mindset of garnering all credit for any activity of bringing about a change in the health of the people of the country.
Adoption of Services and Primary Healthcare Centres
Another viable option available to private individuals is to just adopt some of the services or adopt some of the Primary HealthCare Centres. There are many PHCs, usually spread over villages in India, in India and the private sector desirous of doing something within the healthcare ambit can just hand hold the government and provide services in the exiting PHCs spread far and wide in the country. They need not even open new clinics and hospitals, there are enough number of PHCs and private sector can augment the care and services being currently provided at these centres. For example, there are 4-6 beds in a PHC that can conduct small surgeries. Private sector and expand the list of the surgeries that PHCs are currently offering that will prevent patients from going to big cities. The PHCs drive immunization programmes, anti-epidemic programmes and birth control programmes. Private sector can bring in professionalism in these programmes and include more services like psychological counseling and even sessions on hygiene, parenting and breastfeeding for pregnant mother.