Dr Kafeel Khan is crusading for a “Health for All” plan that will equalise access and treatment in the remotest pockets. He talks to Saiyed Danish Jamal of Healthwire
Dr. Kafeel Khan, who had saved dozens of children suffering from encephalitis in Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical college in 2017 and visited Bihar’s Muzaffarnagar this year to treat children after the news of 175 children deaths due to Acture Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) made headlines, has a new mission. He has been touring major cities across the country to launch his vision for a better and a healthy India through his project ‘Health for All’.
He has proposed 15 steps that the government should take in order to improve the state of health infrastructure in India. These include spending a greater share of GDP on health, developing human resources in medical services, universalising and expanding immunisation and other programmes, sharing expenditure and other initiatives, primary and secondary healthcare facility in each assembly constituency, one medical college in each Parliamentary constituency, regularising all contractual workers, opening five new AIIMS facilities a year, universalusing maternity benefits, taxbenefits, strengthening public health centres, medical college level healthcare, basic healthcare to be made available at sub-divisional level, better health management and a health education in school .
“We have been running a project called ‘Health for All’ with 25 health activists from all over India. Apart from doctors, some of the activists are also CEOs, IITians and Supreme Court lawyers. We collected our data from WHO, World Bank and UNICEF. According to one data sheet that we have, around 8,00,000 kids had died in 2017, while the UN said that they could have been saved,” he told Healthwire.
“We have launched the project in eleven states. Hyderabad was the first city where the project was launched. Then we launched it in Kochi, Chennai, Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi, Dhanbad, Patna and Kolkata. I had also met Union Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan on July 14 and shared with him the data we have collected. He promised to work on the data,” he said.
“The most important of all our recommendations to the government is to increase expenditure on healthcare. Currently, India only spends 1.2% of GDP whereas many others countries in the world are spending 6-8% of their GDP on bettering health sector, including Bangladesh and Pakistan. It is not to blame the current government as this figure of 1.2% has been constant since 1999. So we have demanded that it should be gradually increased to 3% of our GDP by the government in the next four years. For that, the health budget should be increased to 1.5 lakh crore from 60,000 crore per year for the next five years. We also demand that Right to Health should be made a law like Right to Education. Healthcare should be imparted impartially to all, and mostly poor,” said Dr Khan, highlighting his vision.
“Today, the situation is that out of Rs. 60,000 cr, 40,000 cr amount is consumed by salaries, that leaves only 20,000 cr for developing health care. The government had earlier announced to open 1.5 lakh wellness centres which would treat a number of diseases including hypertension and carcinoma. Now, to open one wellness centre in a place like, say, Delhi, we estimated the cost at Rs. 4 cr which means we need about 4 lakh crores to open 1.5 lakh wellness centres. Currently, we only have 2000 crore rupees for the purpose,” Dr. Khan said indicating the need for a bigger health budget.
“Basically, we demand that the government should ensure Right to Health for all as has been promised to us in our Constitution. Today, 80% doctors are taking care of 28% patients only as health facilities are increasingly getting concentrated in cities and metros. For instance, in villages, our data says, that 51,000 patients depend on every 50 doctors where as in cities like Delhi only 300 patients have to depend on a doctor. If you go to Kerala, the condition of primary health care systems there is good. However the primary health care situation is dismal in states like UP and Bihar,” Dr. Khan explained on why the county needs to strengthen public health care centres.
“Our greatest need is that the poor have equal access to health care. In Gorakhpur, every year children die of Japanese Encephalitis. The reason behind this is that they can’t access health services like vaccination. Hence, infants from poor families have a far higher death rate than the rich ones,” said Dr Khan, elaborating on the need to expand immunization to the poor.