“Where can he be?” said Lakshmi.
“He’s often late these days,” said Bhavana. “He told me people stop him on the street.”
“I know, but never this long. Almost three hours. Look at the crowd.” She gestured to the throng of patients outside the door of the clinic. “We’ll never see them all today.”
“I’ll send Ashook to check on him if you go out and explain to the patients what’s happening. But use the back door so they won’t come in.”
A half hour later, Ashook returned to the clinic, his face pale. “He’s gone,” he said.
“Gone?” said Lakshmi. “What do you mean, gone?”
“His house is empty. No furniture, no rugs. Nothing.”
Lakshmi looked stricken her hand to her throat. “My God. What will we do?’
“Let them in,” said Bhavana. “We’ll do what we can. I’ll send word to Jaunpur that we need a new doctor.”
In India, there is one government allopathic doctor for every 10,189 people, one government hospital bed for every 2,046 people and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 people.
You don’t need an epidemic for the public health system to collapse. Patients routinely share beds, doctors are majorly overworked, and many people are denied care altogether. Naturally, the shortage of health providers and infrastructure is the most acute in rural areas, where catastrophic health expenses push populations the size of the United Kingdom into poverty each year.