Despite numerous policies in place to achieve self-sufficiency in the health sector, the number of Indian doctors serving the disparate rural population is drastically declining. Many efforts to drive the tech-savvy, white-collared and highly ambitious doctors to the unkempt peripheries of the country has been an utter failure. India still suffers an acute shortage of about 6,00,000 doctors, one million nurses, 200,000 dental surgeons and large numbers of paramedical staff. So, this issue is not just about Indian Doctors. Is it? Well, no, but I focus here mainly on the doctors’ dilemma.
Are the Doctors to be blamed?
Sadly, the doctors are only to be pitied. I say this because of the indifferent attitude of healthcare policy makers who ignore the changing needs of the evolving doctor community. It is no more the age of the general practitioner, and a simple medical degree is merely looked down as “dismal”. It is a general trend that specialists are sought after, and an MS/MD is the bare minimum for a doctor to practice satisfactorily. It is also true that despite the numerous medical colleges being set up, only a few are sanctioned or equipped to run post-graduate degrees. Hence, there is a huge disparity between the number of medical graduates and the number of post-graduate seats being offered in the country. This signals the clogging of an already overburdened health care system. Newly graduated doctors can only practice as residents in teaching institutes or as petty medical officers with a meagre paycheck that drives most of them crazy. The unfathomable amount of investment of time and money during their medical education only drives these hapless newbies to the brink of desperation. Only a few manage to land PG seats without paying hefty donations to institutes that exist for themselves. It is a sad situation, but a real and obviously debilitating experience for the many medical graduates that come out each year from various medical colleges across India.
An Obvious Solution
India is the biggest exporter of doctors in the world. With an overseas workforce equal to almost 10 percent of the Physicians in India, it is quite a contributor. The reason is obvious – a huge backlog of medical graduates waiting to get into a post-graduate course! With the increasing public awareness about healthcare issues and the demand for specialists and super-specialists, there is an increasing need for more post-graduate institutes that can cater to the backlog, but changes in India take time. So, another rather easy channel is to move out of the country to acquire specialist training from abroad, while others switch over to other allied healthcare areas like administration. This has in one way eased the burden on the post-graduate institutes in India but caused a dearth of doctors in the rural setup.
Many medical graduates from India seek to pursue education abroad or to set up practice abroad. Favoured locations have been UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other places. They provide excellent post-graduate trainings which is a bonus much beyond the financial implications. The recent decision by MCI to recognize foreign degrees attained abroad has indeed encouraged many who have settled abroad to consider coming back to India.
Some interesting stats about doctors of Indian origin:
One out of every 10 practicing physicians in Canada have Indian origin.
40,000 Indian doctors in the UK treat approximately half of its population.
50,000 physicians and approximately 15,000 residents and students in the US are Indians.
20% of doctors in Australia have Indian roots.
Isn’t that significant? Yes, it does. This makes India a formidable medical giant in terms of the sheer number of medical graduates it exports to other countries year after year.
Is there still an Exodus?
The number of Indian doctors abroad keeps increasing every single year despite numerous incidences of racial overtones and injustices toward Indian doctors. Reasons behind this exodus still being a comparatively better financial deal and most often a chance to explore possibilities of higher education. There is still a tendency among young or fresh doctors to consider opportunities abroad. Indian authorities need to sincerely consider a drastic change in health policies to improve the living standard, the emoluments, and an improved system to accommodate doctors serving the rural population. This could possibly improve the outlook among the growing number of junior doctors in India and give them a reasonably satisfying career in India itself.
Will the Exodus continue?
We will have to wait and see. If there are changes in the healthcare system in India with adequate facilities for fresh medical graduates, I should say there might be a change. With India becoming a major player in the medical tourism industry, the trend might change. [box type=”spacer”]We hope to see many more Indian doctors abroad come back to serve India with more vigour and valour.[/box]