Tuesday, August 23, 2011

India's ailing health

Mohammad Arif visited his wife, Ruksana, in the labor ward of Umaid Hospital here on Feb. 13. She was to have a cesarean-section the next day. It would be her first child.

"You're going to deliver on Valentine's Day," Mr. Arif told his wife.

"Everything will be fine, with God's will," she said.

Instead, the young family fell victim to the dysfunction plaguing India's public-health system, an overstretched and underfunded patchwork on which the vast majority of India's 1.2 billion people rely.

On Valentine's Day, 20-year-old Ms. Ruksana gave birth to a baby girl. But the young mother's bleeding couldn't be stopped. Umaid Hospital was about to descend into crisis: Up and down the maternity ward, new mothers were mysteriously starting to die.

A few days later, Ms. Ruksana's doctor, Ranjana Desai, pulled Mr. Arif aside and told him, "Along with medicines, she also needs your prayers."

India supplies doctors to hospitals the world over. Within India itself, a thriving private health-care industry—serving a growing middle class and the wealthy—is a byproduct of the nation's economic ascendancy. By some important measures, India's health is improving: Over two decades, life expectancy has risen to 64 years in 2008 from 58 in 1991. Infant mortality has declined as well.
Amol Sharma, Geeta Anand and Megha Bahree in The Wallstreet Journal. Here

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