India faces acute shortage of health workers: Minister

December 12th, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) India faces an acute shortage of health workers that reduces the chances of people getting quality health services, the Rajya Sabha was informed Friday. Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Panabaka Lakshmi also said the government had accepted the findings of the World Bank’s Global Monitoring Report 2008, which states that the rate of absenteeism among health workers is highest in India and stands at 40 percent.

She said health facilities in India can be “substantially improved” if absenteeism among health workers is addressed.

The report released in May this year had also said that if corrective measures are not taken, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with regard to reduction in child and maternal mortality are unlikely to be met.

The minister said the report is based on findings, interpretations and conclusions contained in working papers prepared by the World Bank.

The report was published by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and was an assessment of progress made by various countries towards achieving the MDGs.

“Due to constraints of infrastructure and relatively weak overall development in rural areas, it has been a challenge to retain health functionaries on round the clock basis in health facilities in rural areas. This factor has been noted as a key determinant to achieving the MDGs in India,” Lakshmi said.

The minister said availability of appropriate skilled manpower at various levels in the public health delivery system is a key determinant for the functioning of the health facilities.

“The country faces acute shortage of health workers at various levels in the public health delivery system. The shortage reduce the range and quality of health services available to the citizens,” Lakshmi said.

Keeping this in mind, she said, the government has launched the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in 2005 that aims to provide accessible, affordable and quality health services to the poorest households in the remotest rural regions.

She said under the NRHM, they have followed the strategy of hiring local human resource on contract, incentives and hard area allowances.

“The successful implementation of NRHM has reduced absenteeism and improved availability of critical skills. This has accelerated the progress towards achievement of MDGs aimed at reducing child and maternal mortality,” the minister said.

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