July 1st marked Doctors’ Day – and while the occasion was an opportunity to thank the medical professionals who work to ensure good health, it also was a bitter reminder of the public health crisis India is facing. The government has put a figure to the mammoth medical staff shortage India is battling. The new figures concerning the country’s shortage of healthcare personnel – particularly specialist doctors – have served to highlight the problem.
Nationwide, India suffers an 82 percent shortage of specialist doctors in its community (CHCs) and primary health centres (PHCs) – the frontline of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure. This is according to data released by the Union Health Ministry, which also revealed a shortfall of laboratory technicians of almost forty percent and dearths of nurses and pharmacists between twelve and sixteen percent.
India has just one allopathic doctor for every 11,082 people, with the deficiencies of specialist doctors highlighting what this means for those attempting to avail healthcare. State by state, the figures vary and, in many examples, are even higher than the national average. Even states ranked highly on healthcare management like Kerala (recently named by Niti Aayog the best-performing state in India on health parameters in recent rankings) fare poorly in terms of staffing levels, with a shortage exceeding ninety percent in the state. The same is true of Uttar Pradesh (which Niti Aayog’s Index named the worst-performing state on health), Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and West Bengal.
The figures shed fresh light on the poor status of healthcare infrastructure in Bihar, which has seized hold of national and global headlines in the wake of an encephalitis outbreak which has left more than 150 children dead. The aftermath of the tragedy saw poor health infrastructure implicated as a driving factor behind the deaths, with the National Human Rights Commission castigating all the states and the central government alike for the “deplorable” status of public health infrastructure.
The Union Health Ministry identified a specialist shortfall of more than 86 percent in Bihar, revealing a staggering lack of physicians, paediatricians, obstetricians, and gynaecologists, and surgeons. This applies not only to that one state, but manifests as a national crisis impeding efforts to deliver accessible, affordable, and high-quality healthcare to citizens. As stated by Vivek Srivastava, chief executive officer and co-founder of Healthcare at Home, “while Ayushman Bharat is a significant step in the direction of increasing affordability, accessibility of quality healthcare still remains a concern”, particularly “in the wake of shortage of medical infrastructure and skilled manpower”. – Health Issues India