Tackling Doctors Shortage in India

The data from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare shows the following about the number of doctors in India:

  • A total of 11,46,044 allopathic doctors were registered with the State Medical Councils/ Medical Council of India as on December 31, 2018.
  • India has a poor doctor-population ratio of 1:1456 as compared with the World Health Organisation standards of 1:1000.
  • There are about 7.63 lakh Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy (AUH) doctors in the country. Assuming 80% availability, it is estimated that around 6.1 lakh AUH doctors may be actually available for service.
  • When AUH doctors are considered together with allopathic doctors, India will have a doctor-population ratio of 1:884, which is still low,
  • About 57.3% of personnel currently practising allopathic medicine do not have a medical qualification.
  • This huge number of quacks puts at risk rural patients who suffer because of an urban to rural doctor density ratio of 3.8:1.

Bridging Gap with Mid-level Healthcare Providers

To bridge the gaps and to ensure quality affordable healthcare the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare wants to introduce mid-level healthcare providers to relieve overburdened specialists. The provisions for mid-level healthcare providers have already been provided under the National Medical Commission Act 2019.

Brushing aside the oppositions for mid-level healthcare providers, the ministry cites the examples of countries such as Thailand, United Kingdom, China which have permitted community health workers/ nurse practitioners into mainstream health services for improved health outcomes.

A similar attempt was made in the states of Chhattisgarh and Assam. An independent evaluation carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health in the states of Chhattisgarh and Assam showed that they have performed very well. Hence the ministry justifies the move and argues that quality would not be a concern if it is tightly regulated.

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