Doubling Healthcare Spending Will Not Fix System: Dr Arvind Virmani

In an interview with BOOM, Dr Virmani said that public health education is important in fighting any pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a massive strain on the Indian healthcare system exposing its vulnerabilities at the worst possible time. Medical professionals are struggling with a shortage of beds and proper safety equipment creating further problems for the already overburdened system.

The pandemic has also brought India's dismal public health expenditure record in focus. At 3.6% of the GDP, India's total healthcare spending is low even among the BRICS nations.

Experts are calling on the government to increase public expenditure in the post-COVID era, lest it be hamstrung by any future pandemics. However, Dr Arvind Virmani, the former Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, believes that merely doubling public spending will not fix the state of the healthcare system.

"Unless you improve the quality -- just doubling the health expenditure will just double the inefficiency -- it won't give you better results. And the pandemic has proved that," Dr Virmani said to BOOM's Govindraj Ethiraj in an exclusive interview.

Despite their public health expenditure being the highest in the world, countries like the USA, UK, Germany and Italy have struggled to cope with the novel coronavirus. The US, the UK and Italy are among the worst-hit countries by the pandemic.

According to Dr Virmani, focusing on public health education has to be crucial in any public healthcare policy.

"You'd think the average government in the world spends 8% and we spend 4% so we must immediately double this expenditure. Please look at the system first. Devise focus policies. Public health education must start today. It goes into the schools, it goes into your TVs, it goes with your health system and everywhere. People are ignorant. People with supposed education coming in from the US were told to quarantine themselves. And they travelled all over the country. Why? Because they just don't understand. This education must be there," Dr Virmani said.

In a post-COVID era India will have to examine policies in various sectors to better prepare the country for any future pandemics. One way to tackle the issues would be to use a multi-disciplinary approach in making policies according to Dr Virmani.

"Planning for the health system cannot be left alone to the health professionals. It requires a multi-disciplinary approach. And that is one of the things that has unfortunately been lost. When you have a multi-disciplinary problem, our standard approach would have been to set up a committee with a diversity of experts to come up with a solution," he said.

Watch the entire interview below

Updated On: 2020-05-22T18:36:30+05:30
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