New Delhi, Jun 26 (EFE).- Nonprofit Oxfam on Monday criticized the privatization of India’s health sector with the backing of the World Bank, which has been investing in private establishments in major cities that are outside the reach of most Indians.
World Bank’s investment arm International Finance Corporation “should stop new investments in private hospitals and clinics in India until existing investments and operations in this sector are independently reviewed,” Oxfam said in a report published Monday.
The NGO highlighted the precarious state of India’s health sector as the country occupies the fifth lowest place worldwide in terms of public spending on health despite government insurance plans such as Ayushman Bharat, which was announced in 2018 and covers around 500 million people.
“The IFC’s approach to the quality of healthcare does not adequately address patients’ rights concerns (…) or adequately focus on serving the poor, women, marginalized communities, or underserved locations,” Oxfam said.
Since it began operating in India in 1997, the IFC has carried out dozens of projects ranging from advocating public-private partnerships to direct investments worth $523 million, along with investing through intermediaries.
This approach by the world bank “risks the decline of healthcare systems as social institutions and raises troubling implications for health equity,” the nonprofit said, adding that the private sector already accounted for 58 percent of all the hospitals in the world’s most populated nation as well as 81 percent of the doctors, thanks to government backing.
“The growth of private healthcare in India is often projected as a route to improve access and quality, but the reality is far more complex,” Oxfam warned.
According to the report, direct spending – not covered by insurance in a country where 59 percent of the population does not have public or private health insurance cover – pushes 63 million Indians into poverty every year.
The NGO also highlighted several problems in the private healthcare sector such as overbilling, denying healthcare, price rigging, or refusing to provide free health services to poor patients, which the IFC fails to “recognize or address.”
India does not have a universal social security system, although it does have a universal and free health coverage network across the country.
However, the network does not have the capacity to cater to the needs of the entire population, which largely lacks real access to healthcare. EFE