Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

A cardinal omission in the COVID-19 package


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Importance of medical workforce in making the healthcare system robust


On July 8, 2021, the Union government announced the “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package: Phase II”. But it lacks provision for the medical workforce.

Objectives of the package

  • The stated purpose of the package is to boost health infrastructure and prepare for a possible third wave of COVID-19.
  • There is plan to increase COVID-19 beds, improve the oxygen availability and supply, create buffer stocks of essential medicines; purchase equipment and strengthen paediatric beds.

What is lacking in the package?

  • Workforce shortage: The package barely has any attention on improving the availability of health human resources.
  • As reported in rural health statistics and the national health profile there are vacancies for staff in government health facilities, which range from 30% to 80% depending upon the sub-group of medical officers, specialist doctors to nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and radiographers, amongst others.
  • Interstate variation: In addition, there are wide inter-State variations, with States that have poor health indicators with the highest vacancies.

Way forward

  • Package for filling the existing vacancies: The COVID-19 package II needs to be urgently supplemented by another plan and a similar financial package (with shared Union and State government funding) to fill the existing vacancies of health staff at all levels. 
  • An objective approach to assess the mid-term health human resource needs could be the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS).
  • IPHS prescribes the human resources and infrastructure needed to make various types of government health facilities functional.
  • The pandemic should be used as an opportunity to prepare India’s health system for the future.
  • Scrutiny of the progress on policy decision: The progress on key policy decisions, for the last few years, to strengthen India’s health system, including those in India’s national health policy of 2017, need to be objectively scrutinised.
  • These two sets of policy decisions should be reviewed and progress monitored, through a meeting of the Central Council of Health and Family Welfare, of which the Health Ministers of the States are members.


India’s health system will not benefit from ad hoc and a patchwork of one or other small packages. It essentially needs some transformational changes.

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