Most of you after reading the headline would be wondering if this is some kind of joke. After all media has been circulating the fact that India is currently 600,000 doctors short. Not only doctors, India is short of nurses as well. The figure for that shortfall is in the thousands as well.
Training doctors or nurses is not an easy task, and nor should it be done in a hurry.
According to the data available from the Medical Council of India, we have about 8,56,065 registered doctors in the country today. That makes an approximate doctor: population ratio of 1:2000. According to the ministry of Health, the government has taken many steps including
- Increasing the intake of MBBS students from 150-250 per college.
- Fast track the grating of permission to new colleges, some 50 odd medical colleges have been granted permission in 2009-2011.
- The norms for setting up colleges itself has been relaxed.
- The age for faculty has been increased from 60-70, especially in Post Graduate medical courses
I believe these steps are good in the short term but they would definitely reduce the quality of doctors we produce in the long term. on the contrary It is my opinion that the last thing India needs is more doctors. There are two primary reasons for it.
- Indian doctors love to serve the cities- today almost 75% of the doctors reside and work in the cities where 30% of the population is present. The remaining 25% cater to our vast rural population. So there is no point in producing doctors if they are going to move to the cities and increase the competition among themselves. Also many doctors start focusing on non critical areas like cosmetic surgery in order to increase the ROI on their educational investment. Plus many doctors move abroad. Almost 30 % of my batch in Manipal, 1994 is today either in the US or Europe.
- Even if the doctors agree to move to the villages, the lack of infrastructure would hamper any good they can do for society. doctors trained in the Allopathic system today are more than ever dependent on diagnostic equipment which would be never available in villages.
So what is the solution? How can we effectively combat diseases?
The answer is a combination of technology and training.
Firstly we need to start developing a system of training health workers who are local to the region. If we can train them in handling simple conditions like child birth, administering vaccinations, managing Typhoid, Malaria and Pneumonia. As these are health workers they need to be shown their carer path as growing to be district health officers. As local health workers they would also have the credibility and trust of the population.
Secondly using mobile technology, health workers can be trained to focus on preventive care. A good example is the E mamta project in Gujrat, which has brought down mortality for both the Mother and child during child birth. The health workers used SMS technology on cell phones to update the central registers and then in turn receiving alerts from the system on vaccination dates and the checks on the mothers health.
I think the current scenario in India needs an out of the box solution and the last thing we need is another influx of inadequately trained doctors.