Country’s most prestigious medical institute AIIMS Delhi saw a gap of 26% in the number of women and men visiting the OPD (Outpatient Department). A recent study titled, Missing female patients: an observational analysis of sex ratio among outpatients in a referral tertiary care public hospital in India found that in 2016, around four lakh or 49 percent women were ‘missing’ from the OPD, from four major states, namely, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. This definitely points towards the hurdles women face in accessing the healthcare facilities in our country.

The important takeaways from the study are:

  • The study considered a total of 23,77,028 visits, in which the obstetrics and gynaecology patients were not included. Out of this, 14,94,444 were male patients and 8,82,584 were female patients.
  • Male patients accounted for 63% of total OPD visits whereas women accounted for only 37% of the total OPD visits.
  • The male to female outpatient visit ratio was 1.69, which was significantly greater than the overall sex ratio of 1.09 of the population, based on the 2011 Census.
  • The researchers estimated that there were 4,02,722 missing female outpatient visits from four states, namely, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which is 49% of the total female outpatient visits for these four states.

Male patients accounted for 63% of total OPD visits, whereas women accounted for only 37% of the total OPD visits at AIIMS.

  • The sex ratios had a U-shaped relationship with age: 1.93 for 0–18 years, 2.01 for 19–30 years, and 1.75 for 60 years or over compared with 1.43 and 1.40 for the age groups 31–44 and 45–59 years, respectively.
  • The study found gender discrimination in access to healthcare, which was worse for female patients who were in the younger and older age groups, and for those who lived at increasing distances from the hospital.

Gender gap in Indian healthcare

A 2017 study shows that when it comes to women’s health and survival India lags behind even among developing nations. Indian women stand at 141st position, three places from the bottom when it comes to attainment of healthcare. In spite of a number of hospitals, both public and private, we still fail to give women proper and consistent health care. This shows that merely setting up health infrastructure isn’t sufficient. Women, especially from the thinly populated and backward areas, need to be encouraged to go to hospitals to avail treatment.

There were 4,02,722 missing female outpatient visits from four states, which is 49% of the total female outpatient visits for these four states.

“We need to develop strategies to reach out to women living in distant places as their health may suffer if adequate facilities are not available nearby. This will also have an overall effect of family structure and education of the girl child,” Randeep Guleria, AIIMS director and a professor in the department of pulmonary medicine and sleep disorders and one of the authors of the study, told The Indian Express.

Health Access Discrimination Worst In Cardiology

Co-author Ambuj Roy who is a professor of cardiology at AIIMS says, “Health access discrimination was present across all departments being worst in cardiology. This emphasizes that gender sensitivity to health has to be looked beyond maternal and child health since non-communicable diseases are the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in both men and women.”

“Many a time what happens is that women take some home remedies and are reluctant to go to hospitals. Also, nonavailability or lesser availability of female doctors introduces a sort of reluctance, since we aren’t very comfortable in going to male doctors for certain matters,” says Taruna Vidhay of Nirbhed Foundation.

Picture Credit- Freepik

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