On the one side the lethal of the 2nd wave of covid-19 pandemic and on the other side pandemic looting by the criminals and anti social elements is increasing every day. The pandemic is also used by these elements for minting money. Ambulances, Oxymeters, Oxygen, Hospital beds life saving medicines etc., have all now become source of profiteering and looting. Many State Governments has imposed cap on the prices of these Covid-19 pandemic items and services, but unfortunately there is no mechanism to regulate or enforce these caps. The demand for not only the above essential items but the demand for Hand sanitizers, masks, X-ray and thermal scans have gone up. Taking advantage of the crisis the market is being flooded with low quality and duplicate items. A pulse oxymeter which used to cost around Rs.500 to 700 is now being sold for Rs.3000. Covid patients are being looted by private hospitals and pharmacies by creating an artificial scarcity of these essential items and then charging from the patients according to their whims and fancy. Each private Hospital is collecting from R.2 lakhs to 10 lakhs from the Covid patients. Private Ambulance charges are also abnormally increased. People are prepared to spent money to save their kith & kin, however, getting admission in hospitals have become a day dream. The Central office of the All India Defence Employees Federation and the AITUC Centre is getting complaints from workers from different parts of the country that they are forced to spent huge amount for getting treatment for Covid infection. Oxygen beds are being charged between Rs.2.5 Lakhs and 5 Lakhs as a package. Many have started selling their properties to pay the Hospital bills.
What is cause for these private lobbies looting the covid-19 patients, it is nothing but their hunger for profit and any crisis is a source for them to earn more and more profit. These private sector had burdened the Covid-19 patients with exorbitant costs for their treatment.
I was discussing with a Chief General Manager of one of the major public sector undertaking. He shared his experience with me. He was trying to help one of his employee to get Remdesiver. All numbers in the website either are busy or they were not working. There are mid night operators. They make deals between 12 midnight
to 4 PM. Calls are received during this period about the availability of the Remdesiver. The actual price of the injection is Rs.3590/-, whereas they charge Rs.35,000/-. One is called to a secret location, every time the Operator changes, One have to go with cash no paytm and no Google pay. You have to pay hot cash and if you are not willing someone is waiting in the queue. This is the state of affair in Hyderabad.
All the above instances are due to the Government’s apathy towards the Public Health System and handing over the Community Health System to private Corporates and allowing them to loot the patients.
We are running through a pandemic, which takes some time to get itself converted to epidemic. Till then it is an emergency war like situation. There is total confusion, there is a deficiency in every aspects of Medical governance. Our countrymen are dying like soldiers in the Boarders. This deficiency of Medical infrastructure is wholly due to privatization. Since 2005, most of the Health Care capacity added is being in the private sector.
Today the private sector consists of 58% of the Hospitals in the country, 29% of the beds in hospitals and 81% of Doctors. Private Sector Hospitals run their system on the principle of maximum capacity and have no ability to handle peak loads. The theory of optimization does not permit the system to tackle surges, since normal times it would mean that the Hospitals would have surplus capacity. No private Sector is going to voluntarily develop any surplus beds/idle capacity or surplus ventilators. It is these that evicably causes the crisis in a pandemic. The consequences of turning over the health care to the Private sector and underfunding Public Health system have proved a total failure.
Why this Corporate Hospitals have not developed their own oxygen sources and leaving the responsibility only to the Government when citizens badly needs this. Let us now compare the privatization with Defence Sector. Today 80% of Defence manufacturing is now with Govt. with surplus capacity which is generally termed
as war reserve for meeting any emergent situation in the country, both during war time and peace time. The Defence Industries such as Ordnance Factories, DRDO and DPSUs have come to the rescue of the country during this Covid pandemic crisis by manufacturing many items required to face this unprecedented pandemic. The plan of shifting the Defence Production responsibility to private sector would definitely prove suicidal in the event of war like emergency. Looting by the private sector during this pandemic is a bitter lesson which the Govt. should learn and reconsider its policy of corporatization and privatization in Defence.
Views expressed here are those of C.Srikumar, General Secretary AIDEF and convener of PSU Unions of AITUC