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[Answered] Discuss various reasons for shortage of doctors per capita in India especially in rural areas. Discuss its impact on healthcare delivery in India.

Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss various reasons for shortage of doctors in India. Discuss its impact on healthcare delivery. Conclusion. Way forward.

India has only 10 lakh registered doctors to cater to 1.3 billion citizens. While urban areas have 58% qualified doctors, in rural areas the number is as low as 18.8%. There is one government doctor for every 10,189 people according to WHO against the recommended ratio of 1:1,000. This has hampered healthcare delivery in India especially in rural areas leading to bad healthcare situation in India.

Reasons for shortage of doctors per capita in India:

  1. Less intake: There are fewer medical education institutes across the nation.  Further, these institutes are mostly private which have a high amount of fees. Also intake in these institutions are less.
  2. Lack of incentives: While India has one of the largest medical education systems and reputed institutions such as AIIMS, doctors are not willing to serve in rural areas, many of which are still difficult to access and lack electricity. There is poor availability of doctors to the majority of the population living in rural areas.
  3. Emigration: Many of the doctors trained in India do not stay here due to better standard of lives and better income in other nations. Most of the doctors move to the UK, USA, and Australia to settle there.
  4. Low healthcare spending: India’s government spends only 1% of GDP on health. Thus the healthcare system suffers from lack of staff, poor infrastructure etc. This has also led to a lesser number of hospitals and institutions for medical education.

Its impact on healthcare delivery in India:

  1. Overburdened Doctors: Due to a disproportionate Doctor-patient ratio, a limited number of doctors, nurses and medical staff have to cater to a large number of patients. This leads to hospitals which are overcrowded and staff are overworked.
  2. Quacks: The shortage of trained doctors has led to a proliferation of unqualified quacks. Just 19% of people in rural India who call themselves doctors actually have a medical degree. These quacks are usually trained in alternative remedies, such as homeopathy, but advertise themselves as qualified medical professionals to patients desperately seeking help.
  3. Risk of epidemic: India suffers from lack of doctors and clinics, especially in rural areas and in case of epidemics and diseases like tuberculosis. Thus patients are either never diagnosed or diagnosed too late.
  4. Unaffordable healthcare: The large number of people still living below the poverty line in India. Lack of doctors leads to costly services by private practitioners who exploit the market for their profits.
  5. Antibiotic resistance: A shortage of healthcare professionals in India is hampering access to lifesaving antibiotics and contributing to a rise in antibiotic resistance. Due to lack of medicine it has hampered the antibiotic course of the patients.

Way forward:

  1. Motivation: Medical institutions should motivate the upcoming doctors to provide their education and services in rural parts of the country as well as remind them that the profession revolves around saving lives.
  2. Spending: Rural areas should have access to easy travel and help patients get to hospitals for betterment and cure. If a city is too far, then there should be smaller hospital branches/health centres well equipped to handle emergencies. For this, more spending on healthcare is needed.
  3. More medical institutes: Government should target to open more medical institutes across the nation. Effort must be made to have at least one institution in every district.
  4. Bridge courses: Government proposal of bridge course needs to be implemented. It can help in plugging doctor shortage effectively with a proper worked out course.

Shortage of doctors need government efforts especially regarding spending on healthcare. Without sufficient manpower, healthcare continues to suffer. Initiatives like Ayushman Bharat can’t be successful with insufficient number of doctors.

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