Preventing a Kota redux will need a structural overhaul of the public healthcare system in the country
Over a 100 infants dying in Kota’s JK Lon government hospital in 33 days is a perverse reminder of the failure of public healthcare that, among other instances, caused the death of nearly 1,300 children in Gorakhpur’s BRD Hospital in 2017. At JK Lon, 963 children died last year, and that’s after such deaths at the hospital have trended downwards over the past few years. What is atrocious is that the state government should point to the trend to defend itself. Even as patients, parents, and external supervisors point to the lack of basic but life-saving infrastructure—nearly 320 of 500-plus key medical equipment at the hospital, including ventilators, are in various states of disrepair—the hospital has attributed the deaths to the critical condition of the children at the time of being brought to the hospital.
To be sure, the severe imbalance between the supply and demand at the hospital is a factor that must be considered; the hospital records an average of 200-300 out-patient consultations and 30-40 admissions per day. But, JK Lon is the norm, not the exception. Given how poor India’s public health infrastructure is—there are just three government hospital beds for every 10,000 rural population, and one government allopathic doctor for 10,926 Indians—a Kota/Gorakhpur-like situation is, in theory, possible anywhere in the country. There is just one government hospital for 90,000 people. If India has to meet the SDG of ending under-five child deaths by 2030, it needs a structural overhaul of its healthcare system.