Editorial

Bitter pill

  • Public health is an important issue but is often overlooked.
Kathmandu

Apr 9, 2019-

Extreme poverty and illiteracy have created a vulnerable picture in Achham. As one of the  remote districts in Nepal, it is quite naturally deprived of many development indexes. And access to quality health service is no exception. The entire district has only one health post that caters to the needs of three villages—Basti, Dandigadey and Banda. What’s more, the building that houses the post is uncared for. Public health is an important issue, but is often overlooked. Access to health care, especially in rural areas, is besieged by lack of infrastructure, a dearth of skilled human resource, and inadequate resources.

In Achham, the government health post in ward 13 is located in Basti village. Residents of other villages have to walk for as long as five hours to reach the health post in Basti. According to a report published in this paper, locals were complaining about how there have been numerous occasions where pregnant women had gone into labour and delivered on the way to the post. Sunita Nepali, a local, said she delivered her son on the way to the birthing centre. “I gave birth to my son in a jungle. Fate saved me that day,” she said.

As a country, we certainly need to do a lot to improve public health. To begin with, the government needs to increase its spending on public health. Although the healthcare sector saw an allocation of around Rs56.41 billion in the new budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19, up from around Rs32 billion in the previous FY, there is a long way to go to make any appreciable difference. Most importantly, the increase in spending must be accompanied by identifying where the money needs to be spent. For example, the government must make sure a substantial amount of money is channelised into ensuring primary health care. The development of the country hinges on the health of its citizens. Therefore, ensuring public health delivery should be a subject of intense policy deliberation.

While rural areas continue to be bereft of even basic health care services, the increasing role of the private sector in healthcare in the urban areas has made treatment expensive. This kind of imbalance also needs to be checked. Time and again it has been highlighted that the overall health care scenario in Achham is worrisome, but these concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The role of public sector spending cannot be overstated when it comes to ensuring that citizens—regardless of where they live and their social class—have access to proper health care. The public health system is already in bad shape. The authorities concerned must make healthcare inclusive to all.

Published: 09-04-2019 08:04

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