NEW DELHI: Despite the acute shortage of healthcare professionals, the BJP-NDA Government has put its foot down on the erstwhile UPA proposal to address the issue through the appointment of basic community health programme officials.
Union Health Minister Harshvardhan is not willing to push paramedics into the health care system. However, sources say, he is unlikely to force the states to toe his line. With the shortage of doctors and their unwillingness to work in rural hinterland, the UPA Government had come out with the proposal to have mid-level healthcare professionals between the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and doctors.
As part of this, it had even cleared the Union Health Ministry’s proposal to introduce BSc (Community Health) courses in November. There is about one doctor per 1700 citizens in India, World Health Organisation (WHO) says the minimum is 1:1000. While the Health Ministry figures suggest, there are about 6-6.5 lakh doctors available (approximately). India would need about 4 lakh more by 2020--50,000 for primary health centres; 0.8 lakhs for community health; 1.1 lakh for 5,642 sub-centres and another 0.5 lakh for municipal community health centre.
The Cabinet note moved by the then Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad says, “ We need huge number of doctors. Even if we are able to manage it, doctors will not work in rural areas. Solution is not coming from the doctors. So we need to have mid-level health care professionals between Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and doctor. There are already seven lakh ASHAs working in rural areas. That is why there is a need for the introduction of BSc (Community Health) courses soon.”
Vardhan also admitted that the current doctor-population ratio of 1:1700 is not desirable. However, he does not want to push the programme of introducing BSc (Community Health) courses. When asked, Dr Vardhan said that it is a good programme, but he has no plans to push and leave it to the state governments.
“If state governments want to start BSc (Community Health) courses, they can start.” he said. However, Vardhan said that plans are also being implemented to add college wings to district hospitals with a view to enhancing manpower availability and creating new medical colleges.
Despite all the growth and developments, the health infrastructure remains below international standards with only 6.28 lakh hospital beds and 9,18,303 allopathy doctors for over 1.25 billion people. Doctor, both Allopathic and AYUSH, population ratio is 1:1217. On Health Human Resource in rural areas, Number of doctors available at PHCs as on March 2013 was 29562 and there are 1,51,684 sub centres, 24,448 PHCs, 5,187 CHCs as on March 2013, as per National Health Profile- 2013. Though the number of doctors registered was 9, 18,303, according to Health Ministry, there are only 6 to 6.5 lakh doctors available in the country.