The recent NCBI data shows, to maintain the ideal ratio of doctors and population in India, there is a need for 600,000 doctors in the next 10 years. Though the projections are based on recommendations that have several caveats and are therefore somewhat arbitrary. The shortage of doctors is certainly a major concern as highlighted in the last few months for the country.
With all the medical profession at various levels already stretched to their capacities are already overwhelmed by the war-like conditions they have dealing with every day. They are devoting a significant number of hours exposing themselves to the virus and other pathogens as well.
Despite fighting tooth and nail against the virus, it is no new observation that the deployed workforce is simply not enough. As of today, it can be said that, if there comes a third Covid wave in the country, we as a nation are still unprepared.
Building up new medical institutions can be one of the ways but India already has the largest number of medical colleges in the world, yet it is facing a significant shortage of skills and expertise in the sector.
Amidst the difficult times, the government has allowed hospitals to add up to 30% extra beds in order to accommodate the sudden influx of the patient, however, what was left unattended was the requirement of medical strained staff and doctors.
Alexander Thomas (President) and Girdhar Gyani (Director General), Association of Health-care Providers, India (AHP) have expressed their concerns and possible solutions to overcome the current shortage of doctors in the country permanently. Some of these solutions are efficient for the current crisis and some of them can potentially help in overcoming this shortage in the long run.
They have suggested three ways which the government of India can discuss and avoid any difficult situation in the near future. Their first suggestion implies that to strike up the balance between the undergraduate and postgraduate studies of medical science. With 50,000 MBBS doctors who are unavailable to serve the healthcare needs of the country as they are required to qualify NEET PG to be eligible for the postgraduate studies
The second suggestion corresponds to the 1,30,000 students who have not qualified for NEET PG yet so they are in their homes preparing for the next year. These students can be provided with some incentives and can be a potential resource to overcome the shortage for the long term.
The team also proposed that the Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) can also be used to overcome this setback by giving a lineage in the form of a few grace marks in the screening test in exchange for their one-year service during Covid in the hospitals. Every year about 20,0000 FMGs return to India to practice in India. They have to undergo the screening test called FMGE which generally has very low passing percentages
However, it is to be noticed that these suggestions are particular for the short period and would require more strategization to be a long-term solution. The three simple yet realistic proposals for solutions have easy implementation without compromising the quality. These steps can also ensure a major step to fulfill the in-demand of motivated doctors the country is currently facing.