How NGOs Can Support Healthcare Sector
NGOs must also play a key role in supporting the public health system at grassroot level by enhancing the management of Primary Health Centres and related bodies
By Suparna Diwakar
Historically, Private sector is primarily considered superior to the public sector in terms of delivery and quality of healthcare services in India and the not for profit sector is considered as a "third stakeholder" whose role had been mostly constricted to diagnosis camps and advocacy. However, considering the poor performance of healthcare services throughout the country, there is a growing realization that the role of each stakeholders, including the NGOs needs to evolve.
If we look at the situation through a development management perspective, we realize that majority of our efforts have mostly been on curative side of the healthcare system than preventive. To reach to a level of sustainability we must focus on prevention, even more than cure, so as to reduce the 'disease burden' on common man. Under "Swachch Bharat" mission, millions of toilets have been built, many of which remain unutilized. Here, NGOs can play a key role by focusing upon awareness generation and attitudinal change through consistent engagements with the communities and schools. As per researches, the major cause for the high Maternal Mortality Rate in rural areas is anon-medical cause - inadequate transport facilities to carry pregnant women to formal healthcare institutions for childbirth. Seva Nilayam, in partnership with the Government of Tamil Nadu has initiated an Emergency Ambulance Services scheme in Theni with an objective to reduce the maternal mortality rate in its rural area. Emerging advancement in technology needs to be leveraged upon. NGOs need to partner with technology solution providers to develop innovative ways to ensure effective delivery of health services to beneficiaries. BBC Media Action's Mobile Kunji is one such model to learn from. It provides a unique IVR based, on-the-go training service for ASHA workers to deliver maternal and child care services to pregnant women.
NGOs must also play a key role in supporting the public health system at grassroot level by enhancing the management of Primary Health Centres and related bodies. Task Force on PPP for the 11th plan mentions the efforts of SEWA in collaboration with Govt. of Gujarat for managing PHCs and CHCs. The NGO provides rural health, medical services and manages the public health institutions with an objective to effective and efficient delivery of preventive as well as curative services.
Another challenge NGOs need to address is the shortages of skilled human resources. India is short of nearly 500,000 doctors, based on the World Health Organization (WHO) norm of 1:1,000 population. The shortage of quality para-medical staff is even more acute. Organisations like Aravind Eye Care have shown potential to develop intermediary cadres of health workers to address the skill availability gap in India. Aravind Eye Care trains their own paramedical personnel over a period of two years (recruited from rural areas) and employees them in their own hospital. Aravind does the highest number of cataract surgeries globally with unmatched quality and integrity. Another Bengaluru based organisation, Sukhibhava has developed a cadre of semi-skilled health workers who provide diagnostic services for non-communicable diseases at point of care in urban slums.
When India's GDP spending on public healthcare clubs it with lower income countries, the Sub Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, and Haiti, it is imperative for us to develop effective and efficient models of healthcare service delivery, and NGOs with their willingness to learn and adapt to new challenges can surely take a lead in this direction.