From the Viewsroom

Doctors missing in action

TV Jayan | Updated on June 02, 2019

The numbers on paper don’t square up with those on the ground

First the good news. India is pretty close to having the bare minimum human resources required for meeting its health challenges. According to the World Health Organisation, the minimum threshold of skilled health professionals required in a country is 22.8 for every 10,000 population. A study published this week showed that we now have nearly 20.6 doctors and nursing professionals available per 10,000 and thus we are closing the human resources for health gap.

With the number of students getting admitted to medical colleges every year touching close to 57,000, we are steadily marching towards meeting the threshold sooner than later.

But these numbers that a team of public health researchers culled out from National Sample Survey (NSS) of 2016 can provide little solace, if quality, not the quantity, is the yardstick. The study itself admits that at least a quarter of allopathic physicians counted in do not have requisite qualifications to be called a doctor. Besides, their geographical distribution too is a problem with two-thirds of doctors, nurses and midwives working in urban areas where only 29 per cent of Indians live. There are a number of States, predominantly rural, where the density of healthcare professionals is poorer than many African countries.

Going a step forward, the study also compared the NSS data with the number of health professionals registered in India under different councils and associations. The authors were aghast to find a number of these health professionals missing in action. One reason could be a good number of doctors and nurses registered with the respective councils may have migrated, as Indian health professionals are much in demand overseas. Some of these professionals, mostly women, may not be working because of social and familial compulsions, they argue. According to the researchers, wooing them to put on the whites again may be a low hanging fruit for governments ever struggling to find means to address health challenges of the people.

Published on June 02, 2019

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