‘Healthcare shouldn’t remain asset to prosperous nations only’

As the world is charting out a future response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a growing group of experts working for public health have now demanded the world leaders to take a comprehensive and global approach towards the current pandemic as well as for the preparation of the future ones as well.

Lead by the George Institute for Global Health in India and over 400 other institutions and individuals globally working in public health and social justice including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Post graduate institute of Medical sciences (PGIMS), Rohtak, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, have released a call to action to the world leaders.

The group demands assorted responses, more investment in health and social justice to tackle future calamities and inclusion of community at the heart of the response to the pandemic.

While speaking to IANS, Kamna Kakkar, MD Anaesthesiology & Critical Care at PGIMS Rohtak, stated that the world needs to unify to end this pandemic.

“As per news reports, 70 per cent of the world’s Covid-19 vaccine doses slated for manufacturing have been already hoarded by the rich countries. Every nation is racing to receive maximum dosage for its population. But what about countries which are not in a position to afford?” she asked.

“It is not a problem of one country but the world at large. For example: Russia is already ahead in immunization of its citizens. When it’s done, imagine how the people of other countries would feel? Healthcare workers like us would be heartbroken to know that while Russians would be getting vaccine shots, we are still left to battle the pandemic without guarantee of our lives,” Kakkar shared an example.

She called healthcare a shared responsibility among the nations. “The pandemic has destroyed economies around the world making healthcare costlier than ever. When the disease is pandemic, our approach and response towards it should not be limited to local. At a time of global calamity of such large extent, health should not be limited to states which are prosperous and could afford it. Albeit, it should be a shared responsibility,” Kakkar said.

“In the face of a pandemic, if the world does not unite to fight then when would it?” asked Kakkar.

Meanwhile, Soumyadeep Bhaumik, research fellow at the George institute, who is leading this clarion call, told IANS that the response to the pandemic should be seen beyond the biomedical and biotechnical lens.

“What we have observed during the Covid-19 is that the solutions heavily relied on medical and technical aspects of the disease. We fully recognize it but unfortunate was that the social and human right aspects were not considered as a part of the solutions to this pandemic,” he explained.

“We focused on ventilators and drugs but ignored the other aspects which may have reduced the suffering of the people. The policies such as singling out the suspected and confirmed Covid patients like putting stamps on the hands of those who needed quarantine after travelling, and pasting posters outside the houses of Covid patients lead to fear-mongering and panic among the public,” Bhaumik added.

“We never tried enough to allay the fear-mongering of the disease. The fear-mongering led to social stigma of the patients and frontline workers, followed by prohibition, castrations and at times violence as well. What needed was to take people in confidence and fight the pandemic together,” he added further.

The pandemic has happened in the past as well like Ebola. The stigma was there as well. Somehow, the governments across the globe did not think of it during this time and ended up taking absurd measures.

Bhaumik also said that the governments should have taken the social justice route which could have made the responses better and could have helped more in controlling the infection.

“Let’s take the issue of masks. It is deemed more important than the vaccine itself to control the infection. However, after the widespread unemployment which the pandemic ensued, the poor became poorer and reached a state where they could not afford the mask. If the government could have invested in providing masks to every individual free of cost. Poor, who comprise around 80% of the globe’s population could have helped better in infection control,” he suggested.