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Association of physicians suggests ways to augment healthcare workforce capacity

A leading consultancy firm and a global association of physicians of Indian origin have jointly released two papers, suggesting ways to augment the healthcare workforce capacity in the country, including by making nursing a more appealing profession.

The two position papers, titled “Reimagining Nurse”s Role in India” and “Formalising Allied Healthcare Workforce in India”, have been presented to NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and Member Dr V K Paul, according to a statement issued on Wednesday.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO) have jointly released the two position papers and the aim is to see the augmentation of the healthcare workforce capacity in the country, the statement said.

The papers assume significance as nurses and other allied healthcare professionals have played a crucial role in combatting COVID-19 in the last two years, with the pandemic underlining a shortage of such workforce at various healthcare facilities.

According to Dr Prathap C Reddy, founder-president, GAPIO and founder-chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group, “Given the continued shortage of both nurses and the allied healthcare workforce in the overall healthcare system, India needs to review and drive transformation in this sector holistically.”

He asserted that nurses are the “backbone of every health system”, accounting for “50 per cent of the global health workforce”, and their roles are diverse from devoting their lives to caring for mothers and children, giving life-saving immunisation and health advice and looking after people of all ages.

The years 2020 and 2021 are the years of the nurses, he was quoted as saying in the statement issued by the Apollo Hospitals group on behalf of the GAPIO.

“Studies from MoHFW (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) and NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) indicate that the demand for allied healthcare workers is significantly higher than the supply, with a disparity also being observed across the states,” said Dr Sudhir Parikh, secretary general, GAPIO.

India could need 60 lakh to 70 lakh allied healthcare professionals (AHPs) by 2024. The current training capacity at about 1.5 lakh seats per year would fall short of achieving the objectives. “We need to enhance both the capacity and the quality of the healthcare workforce,” Parikh said.

To address these challenges, the papers propose an integrated strategy, according to Priyanka Aggarwal, managing director and partner, BCG.

“Issues concerning nursing such as the lack of college infrastructure need to be addressed with a focus on the states with a limited infrastructure. Tagging of colleges with operational multispecialty hospitals needs to be developed. The attractiveness of the profession needs to be enhanced for better fill rates, including through building social respect for the profession and strengthening professional development and progression,” she was quoted as saying in the statement.

There is an opportunity to enhance the current skilling pedagogy and adopt new methodologies, tele-nursing, robotic nursing, forensic nursing etc., and the global best practices. The availability of training faculty for nursing colleges also needs to be improved, Aggarwal said.

The government defines AHPs as associates, technicians or technologists supporting the diagnosis and treatment of a medical condition and the implementation of any healthcare and referral plan, according to the recommendations of a qualified health professional, Reddy said.

“It is crucial to plan a holistic strategy for the nursing workforce in India that can comprehensively solve the challenges of adequate nursing staff as well as the quality of education and training of nurses,” said Dr Anupam Sibal, president, GAPIO and group medical director, Apollo Hospitals Group.

Healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedical and other ancillary medical professionals, have been hailed the world over for their dedication and sacrifices in offering Covid care to patients during the pandemic.

Many healthcare workers have lost their lives fighting the coronavirus pandemic and for their contribution, the society has hailed these men and women as “corona warriors”.

Kshitij Vijayvargiya, partner, BCG, said the Lok Sabha approval for the Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, 2018, which formalises education and licensing for the workforce and sets up state-level councils for the recognition of education and training institutions, is a major milestone.

“College infrastructure needs to be enhanced and awareness about job opportunities needs to be increased. The attractiveness of the profession needs to be increased by enhancing awareness in secondary schools, formalisation of staffing and deployment norms, and making career progression easier,” he said. PTI

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