60 colleges coming up to tide over doctor crunch

April 3rd, 2008 - 4:58 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) India is setting up 60 new medical colleges and 225 nursing colleges in public-private partnership to tide over its current acute shortage of doctors, nurses, dentists and paramedics, a Planning Commission report has said. It also said that the “only way” to meet the crunch is to open the medical education sector “completely for private sector participation and companies being allowed to establish medical and dental colleges just as they have been allowed to open nursing colleges”.

The report, released Wednesday by Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said that India faces a shortage of about 600,000 doctors, one million nurses, 200,000 dental surgeons and large numbers of paramedical staff.

It said there is also an additional demand for Indian healthcare personnel due to their requirement in foreign countries, especially in the US and Britain, and also because of medical tourism taking off in a major way in the country.

It said the government’s role should be limited to opening a few high quality institutions dedicated to research.

“The overriding requirement in the country is for increasing the supply of human resources at all levels, from specialists to paramedical personnel and to improve their quality,” suggested the Planning Commission high level group, headed by Anwarul Hoda, member (International Economics) in the Planning Commission.

The group was set up by the commission to comprehensively examine the different aspects influencing the performances of the services sector and to suggest short and long term policies to improve and sustain its competitiveness in the coming years.

The report said in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), the government plans to set up six institutions like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and upgrade 13 existing medical institutions.

Besides, the nursing schools will be upgraded into colleges and the existing nursing colleges strengthened and upgraded as well as the existing government medical colleges.

Currently, medical colleges churn out about 30,000 doctors a year, apart from 20,000 dentists and 45,000 nurses.

The report said about 3,181 postgraduate degrees are awarded annually, while 1,316 postgraduate diplomas are given in the country each year.

It said if qualified personnel are provided at all levels it will help improve the competitiveness in the private healthcare sector as well as the efficiency of public healthcare institutions, which are handicapped mainly by staff shortage.

Expressing “distress” over the shortage of human resources in India, the report said doctors registered by different state councils stood at 668,131 during 2006 - making the doctor to population ratio stand at a dismal 60:100,000.

It also noted that the state-wise distribution of doctors was highly skewed.

While Delhi, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have a favourable ratio, in states like Haryana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh there was a severe shortage.

“If the targeted doctor population norm is taken as 1:1,000, there is a requirement of at least 600,000 doctors,” it said.

Also, the country faces an acute shortage of dental surgeons. In 2007, there were 73,271 dental surgeons against the requirement of 282,130.

In the same year, there was a need for around 2.19 million nurses, but the figure available was 1.16 million nurses.

There is an acute shortage of paramedical staff such as radiographers, X-ray technicians, physiotherapists, laboratory technicians, dental hygienist, orthopaedists and opticians. However, the number of pharmacists is adequate, it said.

Commenting on the Medical Council of India not recognising the undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications of foreign institutions, which similarly do not grant recognition to Indian degrees, the report said: “As a result, the hospitals and other clinical establishments cannot draw upon the pool of NRI medical professionals, who may be willing to work in India.”

It said that the qualifications of doctors and radiologists who have been trained in Britain or other foreign countries should be recognised on an “exceptional basis”.

This move, it said, would increase the pool of quality medical personnel available to Indian service providers as well as in medical tourism, telemedicine and clinical research.

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