sunny.png
Saturday August 8th, 2020 7:37PM

India's social inequalities reflected in coronavirus care

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEW DELHI (AP) — When Pradeep Kumar's wife was admitted to a government-run hospital in India's capital for treatment of COVID-19, it took two days before she was able to see a doctor.

“There are six other women in her room and everyone is frustrated,” he said outside New Delhi's LNJP Hospital. “They're behaving like they're leprosy patients.”

Kumar’s wife had just given birth when she found out she had the virus. She was told she would have to change hospitals and be admitted at one set up to handle coronavirus patients, an exhausting process that took hours.

Though India’s leaders have promised coronavirus testing and care for all who need it, regardless of income, treatment options are as stratified and unequal as the country itself. Care ranges from crowded wards at public hospitals that some worry will make them sicker than if they stayed home to spacious suites at private hospitals that only the wealthy can afford.

Under India's health care system, everyone should be able to receive either free or highly subsidized care at those public hospitals depending on their income. But the system has been chronically underfunded, meaning government hospitals are overburdened and patients often face dayslong waits for even basic treatments.

World Health Organization data shows that India's government spent $63 per person on health care for its 1.3 billion people in 2016. By comparison, China spent $398 for each of its 1.4 billion people in 2016, according to the WHO.

Though India has managed to halve its poverty rate over the past 15 years, some 176 million people still live on less than $1.90 a day, and experts say the pandemic is shining a spotlight on the country's vast inequalities in everything from employment rights to health care.

“Epidemics usually are good mirrors of society and country,” said Pratik Chakrabarti, a history of science professor at the University of Manchester, adding that this one “has exposed how precarious people’s lives are” in India.

With more than 490,000 recorded coronavirus infections nationwide — and the actual numbers believed to be far higher — India's health care system is facing one of its biggest tests. So far hospitals still have the capacity to handle all of the virus cases — though if that changes there are backup plans that include treating patients in repurposed train carriages.

But shortcomings are also on display.

At RML Hospital in New Delhi, a government-run facility that offers free COVID-19 tests, dozens of people waiting on a recent day to be registered for a test stood in line or lay on metal benches shaded by a green tarp in scorching summer heat. A small indoor emergency triage area had been converted into a crowded waiting room for confirmed COVID-19 cases.

A personal trainer who fears he has the coronavirus, Manoj Kumar was lined up outside another public hospital just waiting to get in. He said he saw some people give the guards money in order to skip the line.

“The rich people get their work done pretty easily,” he said. “People who don’t have money for the guards have to stand in line for multiple hours.”

At New Delhi's AIIMS Hospital, another public facility, more than 600 staff have been infected with the virus, which union leader Dr. Srinivas Rajkumar T. blamed on poor hygiene and sanitation protocols, including “biohazard handling, reuse of face masks and face shields.”

Private hospitals generally uphold higher standards of care, but most people can't afford it.

At Max, one of India's biggest private hospital chains, daily rates for coronavirus treatment range from about 25,000 rupees ($333) for a bed in the general ward to 72,000 rupees ($960) for a bed in the ICU with a ventilator.

Delhi state’s own health minister, Satyendar Jain, checked into a government-run hospital earlier this month after testing positive for COVID-19, but he transferred to a Max hospital when his condition became critical.

Other private health providers are selling home care packages for people with mild or moderate symptoms that for about $25 a day include twice-daily remote monitoring by a nurse, medicine deliveries and a guaranteed ambulance should the need arise.

For those in need of isolation — say the spouse of a virus patient — the Delhi state government has ordered a slew of hotels to convert rooms for the job. Room prices, which include daily care, cost about 10,000 rupees ($132) a night — again, a sum out of reach for most people.

Dr. V.K. Paul, the head of a government committee on medical emergency preparedness, said that the perception of private hospitals as better was an “overgeneralization.”

“Some of our best COVID care facilities are in the public sector,” he said, adding that it was “not possible to meet this challenge” without both public and private hospitals.

The two-tiered hospital system is having an impact even beyond the coronavirus.

Vishnu Singh's 14-year-old daughter has had a fever and fallen unconscious every night for a month. But given the current situation at public hospitals, he wouldn't dare take her to one.

“The public hospitals are full of people with the virus," he said. “You could get infected just standing in line.”

Instead he's spent 10,000 rupees ($132) — two-thirds of his monthly income as an office manager — to have exams and tests done at private hospitals and labs. It's still not clear what's causing his daughter's sickness.

The pandemic has hit India's poor the hardest, from the disease itself to the economic and social impact of a recently lifted nationwide lockdown, said Ramanan Laxminarayan, an epidemiologist and economist who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington.

“The lockdown primarily protected the rich because they could afford to stay home. The poor couldn’t so bore the brunt of the disease," he said. “This is just a grossly unfair situation.”

___

Associated Press journalists Aniruddha Ghosal, Rishabh R. Jain and Shonal Ganguly contributed to this report. Follow Emily Schmall at twitter.com/emilyschmall

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care, AP Business - Personal Finance
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Nebraska Democrats struggle with 'dumpster fire' reputation
Democrats in Nebraska are struggling for relevance in their Republican-dominated state, and a series of high-profile embarrassments is only making it harder
11:41PM ( 6 minutes ago )
India's social inequalities reflected in coronavirus care
While India’s leaders have promised coronavirus testing and care for all who need it, regardless of income, treatment options are as stratified and unequal as the country itself
11:28PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher on bank news
Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher after U.S. regulators removed some limits on the ability of banks to make investments
11:28PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Ex-UN human rights chief calls for Hong Kong special envoy
The United Nations’ former human rights chief and eight former U.N. special envoys have urged the body’s secretary-general to appoint a special envoy on Hong Kong
9:28PM ( 2 hours ago )
Taiwan's dragon boat races among few to be held this year
Taiwan has become one of the few places to hold a boat race, thanks to no local transmissions of the coronavirus being reported on the island in over two months
8:41PM ( 3 hours ago )
Mexico passes 25,000 dead; treasury secretary gets virus
Mexico has pushed past 25,000 reported coronavirus deaths and 200,000 confirmed cases, and the treasury secretary says he has tested positive
8:35PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP World News
Dueling Trump-Biden events offer contrasting virus responses
A presidential campaign that has largely been frozen for several months because of the coronavirus took on a degree of normalcy as President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, swung through critical battleground states presenting starkly different visions for a post-pandemic America
10:33PM ( 1 hour ago )
In Wisconsin, Trump boasts of 'aptitude for manufacturing'
Despite enormous economic headwinds and sky-high unemployment numbers, President Donald Trump sought to showcase his record as a job creator during a visit to a shipyard in the battleground state of Wisconsin
10:29PM ( 1 hour ago )
Lobbyist Abramoff charged in cryptocurrency fraud case
U.S. officials say Jack Abramoff, a once-powerful lobbyist who spent time in federal prison for fraud and corruption, has been charged in a San Francisco court in an investor fraud case involving cryptocurrency and lobbying disclosure
9:16PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Idaho to remain in final stage of reopening plan
Idaho will remain in the fourth and final stage of its plan to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic
6:43PM ( 5 hours ago )
Families of 3 deceased workers sue Tyson over Iowa outbreak
The families of three workers who died after contracting coronavirus in an Iowa meat plant outbreak are suing Tyson Foods and its top executives, saying the company knowingly put employees at risk and lied to keep them on the job
6:38PM ( 5 hours ago )
The Latest: Florida exceeds 5,000 confirmed new virus cases
For the second consecutive day, Florida has reported more than 5,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19
5:28PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
The Latest: Court rules gyms will remain closed in Michigan
A federal appeals court ruled gyms and fitness centers will remain closed under Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's shut down order from months ago
11:40AM ( 12 hours ago )
The Latest: Billionaire says West cornering test kit market
The billionaire tasked with speeding up Africa’s access to critical medical supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic says he turned to China for testing kits after manufacturers in the West said the continent would have to wait months
9:35AM ( 14 hours ago )
'Coming back and biting us': US sees virus resurgence
A coronavirus resurgence is wiping out two months of progress in the U.S. and sending infections to dire new levels in the South and West
10:01PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Audit: US sent $1.4B in virus relief payments to dead people
A government watchdog says nearly 1.1 million relief payments totaling some $1.4 billion went to dead people in the government’s coronavirus aid program
5:58PM ( 5 hours ago )
US mortgage rates stall; 30-year remains at all-time low
Long-term U.S. mortgage were unchanged this week as the benchmark 30-year home loan remains at a its lowest rate in nearly 50 years
3:04PM ( 8 hours ago )
Jobless claims and depressed economy show damage from virus
The number of laid-off workers who applied for unemployment benefits fell to 1.48 million last week, the 12th straight drop and a sign that layoffs are slowing but are still at a painfully high level
12:58PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business - Personal Finance
Nebraska Democrats struggle with 'dumpster fire' reputation
Democrats in Nebraska are struggling for relevance in their Republican-dominated state, and a series of high-profile embarrassments is only making it harder
11:41PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher on bank news
Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher after U.S. regulators removed some limits on the ability of banks to make investments
11:28PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Asia Today: China reports further decline in new virus cases
China has reported a further decline in newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 13 cases
11:24PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Kop joy: Liverpool fans flood Anfield, 1st title in 30 years
The 30-year wait is over
11:08PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Some states pause reopening as virus cases near record high
The coronavirus crisis is deepening rapidly in Arizona, and the governor of Texas is beginning to backtrack after making one of the most aggressive pushes in the nation to reopen his state
11:07PM ( 40 minutes ago )