India is within the 77th day in the lockdown together with the economy slowly limping straight back to normalcy. Concerns are now being raised on account of a rise in the number of coronavirus infected people across the country, which stands at a lot more than 2,65,000 with 7,466 deaths. Some are even accusing the governments of not playing expert advice and allowing the resumption of economic activities without making a complete assessment. Questions will also be being raised regarding the efficacy and rationality of the decision to impose complete lockdown from 25 March, when India had reported only 500-odd coronavirus cases and opening the economy when the number of corona infected people started rising , the us government has chose to allow opening up of the economy in all respects with fewer restrictions. Apparently the argument seems logical until we compare the Indian scenario in what is going on in other major countries around the world.
As things stand now, the United States of America with a population of 33 crores has reported nearly 20 lakh coronavirus cases with 1.1 lakh deaths, Spain has 2.9 lakh cases and 27,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has reported 2.8 lakh cases and more than 40,000 deaths and Italy’s 6 crore population has had 2.3 lakh coronavirus infections with more than 33,000 deaths. Compare this with 2,66,598 cases reported in India, a country by using a population in excess of 130 crore, and simply 7,466 deaths. Clearly India did well within its combat with the coronavirus. Allow us to remember all the countries referred above are western world with a lot of advanced health systems and in comparison to them our overall health delivery systems are not just poor but extremely inadequate. If we were able to minimise the number of people who died due to the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen, we must give due credit to the governments for their efforts and our medical professionals who have so far succeeded in managing the pandemic with scarce resources, despite this crucial shortcoming.
However the pandemic has done well to get the spotlight on our health system – after a long time. Shortages of all kinds of medical infrastructure became apparent, as the number of cases began to rise. Makeshift hospitals had to be put in place though most public hospitals are serving coronavirus patients. An acute shortage of other, doctors and nurses paramedics can also be being felt across the nation.
That India continues to be short of doctors continues to be widely acknowledged. India’s accessibility to doctors per thousand population does come near the World Health Organisation’s prescribed doctor-patient ratio of 1: 1000 if we include all of the registered unani, allopathic, ayurvedic and homeopathic doctors. But the quantity of doctors who practise is much lower. Additionally it is far under many countries including Russia, the USA, and all sorts of the European Union countries in which the ratio is above 3 doctors per one thousand population. Unless we raise the ratio to the quantity of better performing countries about the health front, poor individuals India continue to suffer.
The problem of shortage of doctors along with other support staff is capable to linger over the past several decades due to short-sighted policies from the institutions including Medical Council of India, which, in its new incarnation, is still after the same type of archaic policies. The result is that 532 medical colleges have 76,928 seats for the MBBS course. Only half these seats have been in state-run medical colleges. If India has to get the doctor-patient ratio of 1: 1,000, we must have nearly 20 lakh more doctors by the year 2030.
India faced a similar shortage of engineers with the 1990s when there were only 1,30,000 engineering seats offered. However in 2000, the federal government dismantled the stranglehold of your engineering education regulatory body, AICTE, and reworked the regulatory framework that governed opening of engineering colleges. This resulted in an increase in the intake in engineering colleges by 4 times in just five-years.
Unfortunately, these kinds of reform is yet to happen in medical education. As a result, shortages in medical seats still exist and students are, according to one estimate, collectively made to pay nearly 15,000 crores in capitation fee. A large number of others line up to find admission in countries like Russia, many, China and Australia others, paying millions of dollars. We now have seen this annual loot of a large number of crores for days on end and made our people and students suffer. Time has arrived we reform the medical education system, end the pervasive corruption in these regulatory institutions and make certain that people perform the expansion in such a manner that people make the required amount of doctors to take care of our population.