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A sizeable percentage of trained health workers in India are not practising the profession: study

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on March 24, 2021

There is a huge disparity between the available pool of trained healthcare personnel and those employed in the healthcare system in the country. This gap has skewed the healthcare delivery, according to a new study.

The study, carried out by researchers from the Indian Institute of Public Health-Delhi (IIPD), along with others has found that while National Health Workforce Account (NHWA) in 2018 estimated that India has a stock of 5.76 million health workers, but according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey of 2017-18 of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) the active healthcare workforce was only 3.12 million.

Both these estimates are far below the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended threshold of 44.5 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 population. As per the NHWA, the doctors density is 8.8 and that of nurses/midwives 17.7 per 10,000, while the NSSO data pegs doctor density at 6.1 and nurses/midwives at 10.6. These numbers go further down to 5.0 and 6.0 respectively, after accounting for the adequate qualifications, showed the study which appeared in the journal Human Resources for Health on Monday.

Wasted talent

The disparity between the surveys isbecause NHWA looks at the total number of people trained in the system and. NSSO, on the other hand, looks at the active workforce. “Though some gap is expected between the two, in India’s case it is significantly large. This actually indicates that we are losing out a significant number of people, who are well trained, from our health workforce,” said Himanshu Negandhi, an associate professor at PHFI and a co-author of the study.

‘Tap the resource’

“If we can have situations where we are able to increase the active health workers, or in other words, get those people who have become bankers or running their shops to come back to the healthcare system, that can substantially increase the number of active health workers in the country,” he said. But to do that, there is a need to understand why are people leaving in the first place. Whether the attrition is more among men or women. Is it the people with certain professional background who are dropping out. Is it the same in the rural and urban areas, Negandhi said.

Lessons from pandemic

“Moving forward we have a lot of aspirations in the health care sector. Covid-19 pandemic has very clearly highlighted that we need a stronger resilient healthcare system, not just in India, everywhere in the world. The trickiest part would be adding the human resources.

Because there is a long gestation period from getting an idea that we need more to actually developing them. If we start today we will see results only after 10 years and there is no short-cuts,” he said.

Published on March 24, 2021

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