THE SHORTAGE OF DOCTORS AND NURSES IS CAUSING A FALL IN HEALTH RATE OF INDIA
Even though it is not a major poll issue, the downfall of the healthcare sector cannot be dismissed. According to a recent report by the US-based Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP), India is short of 600,000 doctors and two million nurses to take care of its patients. In India, there is one government doctor for every 10,189 people (the WHO recommends a ratio of 1:1,000) and the nurse to patient ratio is 1:483. If one goes by the WHO norms, there should be one doctor amongst a population of 1,000. As per information provided by Medical Council of India, as on September 30, 2017, there are a total of 10,41,395 allopathic doctors registered under different state medical councils. While nearly 70 pc of the Indian population resides in rural areas, more than 60 pc of the registered doctors are concentrated in urban areas, thus creating a highly skewed distribution and accessibility of basic health facilities.
Also, the situation is even worse at the Public Health Centres (PHCs). In Chhattisgarh more than half of the PHCs function without a doctor. Other states that face shortage of trained medical practitioners in PHCs are Madhya Pradesh (614), Uttar Pradesh (1689), Assam (500), Orissa (413), Bihar (211), Gujarat (65) and Punjab (45). The federal government spends around one percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health, whereas India’s neighbour Nepal spends 2.3 pc of its GDP on healthcare while Sri Lanka spends two per cent. According to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), the Indian Government’s contribution to health insurance stands at roughly 32 pc, as opposed to 83.5 pc in the United Kingdom. Last year the government announced world’s largest national health insurance programme as the Ayushmann Bharat health scheme, while there was a 2.1
pc decline in the allocation towards the National Health Mission, India’s largest programme for primary health infrastructure. Meanwhile the government wants to fix the staff shortages at public healthcares with Ayush (Ayurvedic, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) doctors. It even wants to allow dentists to practice modern medicine through a bridge course in order to tackle the shortfall of doctors in rural areas. The proposal is facing stern opposition from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) that has already received a nod from Prime Minister Office (PMO) on April 9, 2019.
According to officials in the ministry of health and family welfare, the notion is to scale up the medical education in India. “Why is the government opting to implement such a course? Earlier it sought to make exit exams compulsory after medical education; they could also provide medicos with jobs so that there is no dearth of doctors. But to train Ayurvedic doctors and dentists to practice allopathic medicine is not the apt solution,” says Dr Sanjeev Singh, secretary of the Telangana branch of the IMA. The organisation has rubbished claims by the Centre that introducing non-allopathic practitioners into the public healthcare infrastructure will help address the patient to doctor ratio.