Only 4 percent of Indian Population has Access to Palliative Care

Categories: Care and Featured.

In a recent eye-opening interview, done as part of The AIDEM’s MedTalk, Dr. M R Rajagopal, Chairman Emeritus of Pallium India, talks to renowned public health expert, Dr. S S Lal, about the crucial areas that are neglected in the caregiving ecosystem, both in India and Kerala.

Dr Rajagopal opines that We need a patient-centered approach to health care. Only 4% of Indians have access to palliative care. 96% do not have access. Medical doctors do not learn about pain relief. Everybody compares other people’s pain to the pain that they have experienced sometime back in their lives. Of the total palliative care needs of a society, only 30% is related to cancer. There are 10 centres in India and one in Kerala. Yet, there are only 30 palliative specialisation seats in these centres taken altogether. A National Programme for Palliative Care was instituted in 2012. However, it was not implemented effectively. The National Health Policy of 2017 focused on instituting palliative care as part of primary health care.

There are huge gaps in implementation. For example, palliative care was included in the primary health sector. But it is not there in tertiary care. Until someone’s disease is concluded as incurable, there is no provision for pain relief. In Kerala, the palliative policy was adopted in 2008. The budget came from the National Rural Health Mission. So there was no specific budget allocated for the tertiary care sector. 60 to 70 percent of the population depend on the private sector for their health care needs. There are many doctors who think that their responsibility is solely to prolong life in one way or the other. Medical science actually defines the role of a doctor as reducing suffering.

Palliative care is not just for cancer patients or for end-of-life care. It is the treatment regime to reduce suffering and pain in all kinds of ailments. As much as we understand that, the suffering of ourselves and the people who are around us gets reduced. We should also bring palliative care into the private sector.

You can watch the full interview in Malayalam HERE.

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