A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre, states and Union Territories to nationalise all healthcare facilities and related entities till COVID-19 pandemic is contained in the country.
The plea, which claimed that India does not have sufficient public healthcare infrastructure to combat the pandemic, has also sought a direction to all healthcare facilities, institutes, companies and related entities to provide free of cost tests and treatment for coronavirus.
The apex court had on Wednesday directed that private labs should conduct coronavirus tests free of cost, observing they need to be philanthropic in the hour of national crisis. They charge Rs 4,500 for screening and confirmation tests for COVID-19.
The petition, filed by Delhi-based lawyer Amit Dwivedi, has said that public health sector in India has remained in “shambles due to low budgetary allowances” but at the same time, private health care sector has seen “tremendous growth”.
“India does not have sufficient public health care infrastructure to combat a pandemic like COVID-19 and as a last resort India needs to take help of private health care sector,” the plea said.
It said that globally it is being done and health care facilities have been nationalised till the containment of COVID-19.
“In this dire situation, it becomes the primary duty of Indian state to take control, temporarily nationalise, of all these private health care institutes and make them available at the service of common Indian, free of the cost, in order to contain the spread of deadly pandemic COVID-19 and provide the quality treatment and care,” the plea said.
The plea said it is “unfortunately a well known fact that India’s public health care system is not in a happy state” and such situation has much to do with lack of expenditure on the same.
It claimed that in the 2020-21 Budget, India chose to spend only 1.6 per cent, that is Rs 67,489 crore, of its total estimated budget expenditure on public health “which is not only very low in comparison to the average global public health expenditure but is miniscule even in comparison to the expenditure of low income countries”.
Regarding private health sector in India, the plea said it attracts a large number of medical tourists and the medical tourism industry is estimated to grow at the rate of 200 per cent annually.