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Why India has both a glut and acute shortage of doctors

August 07, 2019 05:54 AM


Why India has both a glut and acute shortage of doctors
Country Should Meet WHO Benchmark Of One Doctor For Every 1,000 People In About 6 Years, But The National Average Hides Deep Imbalances Among Individual States

India should in six years meet the WHO benchmark of one doctor per 1,000 people, but the national average hides deep imbalances where individual states are concerned Long queues outside doctors’ clinics, overcrowded hospitals and the huge backlog of patients for surgeries clearly suggest that the country needs more doctors. The data shows that India needs 4.3 lakh doctors added to its existing pool to reach the WHO standard of doctor–patient ratio of 1:1,000 instead of the current 1:1,499.

With an annual output of nearly 80,000 doctors, the country should meet the WHO norm within the next six years. But like most things in our healthcare system, this is complicated too as the shortage isn’t uniform across all geographical terrains. Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Punjab already have more than one doctor per 1,000 people.

But the situation in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, UP and Madhya Pradesh is deplorable. At the current rate at which their colleges are producing doctors, Bihar will take at least 56 years to achieve WHO standards and Jharkhand more than 87 years.

Even in states with the required number of doctors, there are districts with poor health indices because doctors crowd the cities. For instance, Tamil Nadu has declared 16 of its 32 districts backward on various health indices, primarily due to doctor shortage in the rural areas.

Thus, India needs more medical schools, but at the right places, and to produce doctors willing to serve where they are most needed. States with poor doctor-patient ratio, for instance, should have innovative policies and attractive salaries for doctors from other states to move in. It may not be immediately possible for a state to add more medical colleges without having experienced doctors to fill faculty positions. Such states may have to tie up with others to carve out a quota for their students with a condition that these students will return to serve in their home state.

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