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Balancing the Physician and Supply Demand in India

Sustaining the gap between physicians and their demand

Several reports have been projecting that the demand for physicians will grow faster than the supply leading to a substantial future shortfall of doctors. This situation is the result of inadequate funding in the health care sector which translates to a shortage of skilled workers/human resources.

Another major reason for this trend is due to the reason that most of the physicians are nearing their retiring age and few others are demanding early retirement due to COVID-induced exhaustion. Further, shifts in the retirement pattern could also affect the physician supply. 

Technology is also rapidly advancing and will reinvent healthcare as we know it. The future of physician’s diagnostic, monitoring, and prescription that consumes almost 80% of their time will be replaced by smart hardware, software, and testing.

The amount of vacant healthcare provider positions is a key indicator of the gap in the physician supply demand. 

 

                        Percentage of Specialist Vacancies at Health Centers in India 

 

S.no State Percentage 
1. Arunachal Pradesh 89%
2. Chhattisgarh 78%
3. Bihar 61%
4. Uttarakhand 60%
5. Gujarat 56%

 

              Percentage of Staff Nurse Vacancies at Primary & Community Health Centers 

 

S.no State Percentage
1. Jharkhand 75%
2.  Sikkim  62%
3.  Bihar  50%
4.  Rajasthan 47%
5. Haryana 43%
6. NCT Delhi 41%

 

             Percentage of Medical Officers Vacancies at Primary Health Centers in India 

 

S.no State Percentage
1.  Bihar  64%
2.  Madhya Pradesh  58%
3.  Jharkhand 49%
4.  Chhattisgarh  45%
5. Manipur 43%
6.  Tripura 2%
7. Kerala 6%
8.  Tamilnadu 8%
9.  Punjab 8%

 

The rising vacancies for healthcare practitioners in the primary healthcare center and other specialty care will imply that a majority of the population in our country will rely on private healthcare providers which will cause a serious burn in the pocket. As per reports, between 2011-12, almost 55 million Indians were driven to poverty due to out-of-pocket (OOP) health expenses.

 As per the analysis from Observer Research Foundation, apart from inadequate fund allocation, the lack of consistency in the timely release of the funds from the Centre to the State governments has also led to the disparity in the service provided.  

It was found that there were more unutilized funds by the end of the year in the states that specifically needed them the most. A certain file with a request for the release of funds will have to pass through at least 32 desks while going up the authoritative ladder and 25 desks on its way down. 

The analysis from Niti Health Index is that the average time taken for the transfer of Central National Health Mission (NHM) funds from the state treasury to the individual department has a huge difference between all the states. As per the Niti Index Rankings, states like Odisha and Rajasthan performed better based on certain key performance metrics and Goa and Manipur did well based on better health outcomes. 

All the involved parties that must work towards attaining a better healthcare facility for our country must agree upon a common health program at the state level. The National Health Policy 2017 is iterating the need for adopting a rights-based approach. India should work on reducing the strenuous bureaucratic delay in the disbursement of funds at every level. This is a difficult but important step but focusing on improving the Centre-state relations within the several parties that are involved should be a priority too. 

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