Here are few excerpts from the conversation with Dr Prathima Reddy.
Dr. Reddy, How has your career been up until now? How have you seen the healthcare world transforming into the most booming sector ever?
Dr. Prathima: I am an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist practicing in Bangalore these days. I trained and worked in the United Kingdom for 10 years before returning to India in the year 2000. Eighteen years ago, I started working as Consultant in a Missionary hospital in Bangalore and three years ago I took over as the Director of Fortis La Femme hospital for women and children. When I look back over these eighteen years, I have absolutely no regrets about coming back. The initial years were difficult undoubtedly, as no transition is easy. However, dedication, hard work, and ethical practice have paid in the long run; and my career has gone from strength to strength.
The health sector has grown exponentially in the past 10-15 years. There has been an enormous increase in the number of private healthcare facilities. World class medical care is now available in India and very rarely does one have to look to the West for better health care. Health insurance is here to stay and most of the middle and lower middle classes are insured. However, there continues to be a wide gap between the ones who can and the ones who cannot afford private healthcare. The public health care system is still woefully inadequate and leaves a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, despite the increase in private healthcare facilities, most Indians do not have access to adequate free or cheap health care.
Issues related to menstruation or menopause is not yet discussed openly. What do you think is a perfect way to spread the awareness related to such issues?
Dr. Prathima: Menstruation has been considered impure since the Vedic times. And even today, it is not discussed openly. Girls and women suffer immensely both socially as well as at home as a consequence of this. There is no perfect way to spread awareness, although several women’s organisations, schools, and NGOs are working to educate people about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Discussing this natural phenomenon openly at home and school with girls and boys will help reduce the taboo around it. The government should provide free or low-cost sanitary napkins in government schools and of course, provide adequate toilet facilities. The recent movie “Padman” is encouraging. In a country where menstruation is not spoken about freely, it has introduced millions of people to Arunachalam Muruganantham and his determined struggle to find a dignified solution to rag cloths used during menstruation.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Dr. Prathima: When I came back from the UK, I wondered if I would be able to practice medicine ethically and still survive in India. Today after eighteen years, I am proud to say that I have been able to achieve whatever I set out to, and survived very well! Thanks to India for allowing me to make it happen.
Healthcare services for women in India have always been a critical topic of discussion. Women or their families are not that much concerned about their (women) well being if we consider it on a larger scale. What’s your take on that?
Dr. Prathima: This is not just an Indian phenomenon; rather it is world-wide. Women universally are second class citizens, sometimes even worse than that. Traditionally the men are the provider whereas the women are considered to be the homemakers. Accordingly, the health of the men is paramount; the children come next, followed by the women. Women have also added to this gender inequality by constantly allowing their health to be neglected in the larger interests of the family. This is changing, but India and the world still have a long way to go before women’s health becomes a priority.
What’s your aim in the upcoming time? Where do you wish to take the healthcare sector with your contribution?
Dr. Prathima: India despite its enormous economic growth in recent years still spends 1.2% of GDP on healthcare compared to the USA which spends 17.9%. Public health care is untenable in the long run as is evidenced by what is happening to the NHS in the UK. The need of the hour is a robust public-private partnership that can provide healthcare to all. I hope I can be a part this partnership and work towards ending the inequality in healthcare in this country.