Abysmal doctor-population ratio, the cause behind India’s poor health state

India’s health is in ICU thanks to a cavernous gap in the availability of skilled health personnel.

Updated: Sep 19, 2013, 18:33 PM IST

Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group

India’s health is in ICU thanks to a cavernous gap in the availability of skilled health personnel. The country has just one doctor per 2000 people, according to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare estimates. The lack of skilled service providers in India is the biggest constraint in providing universal health care.

India faces an acute shortage of over 64 lakh skilled human resource in the health sector. For starters, the awful doctor-to-population ratio of India must change. Against a global average of 14.2, the physician density of India per 10,000 populations stands poorly at 6.5. India’s nursing and midwifery density of 10 per 10,000 of population is not even half the global average of 28.1. The worst indicator of healthcare in India comes with the density of hospital beds per 10,000 populations, which stands at nine against a global average of 30.

Detailing the reasons behind shortage of quality manpower in India, Dr. Kapil Garg, zonal director at Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, said, “The course duration of medical studies is very long which actually leads to less percentage of students applying for it. Also, there are less government colleges and less number of seats at the post graduate level which further worsens the situation.”

Medical study doesn’t fetch money easily. Supporting the view, Dr. Srikant Sharma, consultant, internal medicine at Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi, said, “As the course duration of the entire medical study is very long, people generally lose interest easily and also by the time a person becomes a fully fledged doctor and starts earning, he finds himself earning less than his other counterparts of same age who are in some other profession.”

While there are not sufficient number of medical colleges, those already existing fail to maintain quality in education.

“There are very few private medical colleges in the country and also the quality of medical education provided by these colleges is not very noteworthy,” added Dr. Garg at Paras Hospitals.

India also suffers from a massive shortage of allied health workers. According to a report of the National Initiative for Allied Health Sciences (NIAHS) “From Paramedics to Allied Health Professionals: Landscaping the Journey and Way Forward” released in December 2012 , there is a gap of 20.42 lakh dental assistance-related technologists, 18.22 lakh rehabilitation-related workforce, 8.93 lakh miscellaneous health workers and 8.58 lakh surgery and anesthesia-related professionals in India.

Uneven distribution of infrastructure facilities in the country hasn’t helped the matters. Dr. Garg at Paras Hospitals, lamented, “There are many states in our country which have more than the required number of medical colleges , however there are certain states where we find only one or two medical colleges which are not sufficient to cater to the services of the people. This is mainly because of failure of proper policy management.”

There is also a shortage of around 2.36 lakh medical technologists, 1.98 lakh surgical and intervention technology-related health professionals, 1.28 lakh ophthalmology-related workers, 61,670 medical laboratory professionals and over 19,217 radiography and imaging experts in India according to the health ministry estimates.

Offering solutions to plug the current scenario, Dr. Sharma at Moolchand Medcity said, “The nexus of private and public sector at the grass roots is the need of the hour. Also, awareness is required among the general public to come forward and join the noble profession.”