The outstanding achievements in the health sector of Kerala amidst its low economic growth remain to be a paradox.
The corroborative role of private sector in achieving this high health status cannot be sidelined. The study examines the contribution of small private medical institutions during the tenure from 1970s to 1990s when Kerala made remarkable developments in its health sector, even without any health policies. With the recent regulatory measures to tackle the challenges in the health sector, the study looks at the question of whether a state like Kerala needs stringent regulations to ensure minimum standards. It also exhausts the implications of imposing regulations which could disproportionately affect small private medical institutions.
The private sector played an unambiguous role in improving healthcare services in Kerala from the 1970s to 1990s. The economy of the state began to revamp only in the 1990s. By the 1990s, the number of private hospitals and dispensaries outnumbered the government medical institutions. 95.31 percent of the total number of hospitals and 97.09 percent of the dispensaries in Kerala in 1991 was run by private and voluntary organizations.
The average number of beds per private allopathic hospital was 26 and 34 during 1986 and 1995 respectively. This implies that majority of the hospitals belonged to the category with less than 50 beds, thus underpinning the pivotal role played by small private clinics, nursing homes and private hospitals
The role of small private medical institutions is still relevant in Kerala as majority of the hospitals belong to the category with less than 50 beds. They fill the gap in providing accessible and basic healthcare to the people in Kerala where there is ever increasing demand for healthcare.
Imposing stringent regulations on the private sector, which are practically difficult to comply with, can affect the category of small clinics and private hospitals more than any other category of medical institutions.
The unfavourable attitude towards private hospitals will adversely affect the operation of small private clinics and hospitals and leave a gap in the state’s healthcare system.
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