As many states, particularly those in the northern parts of the country, reel under a severe shortage of doctors, the Kerala-chapter of Indian Medical Association (IMA) has initiated a process of preparing a pool of doctors who are willing to serve in the rural areas in other states.
The process was initiated after the union health ministry urged IMA to create a pool of doctors who are willing to serve in the rural areas of northern states.
Kerala has one of the highest doctor-patient ratios in the country. The doctor-patient ratio in the state, which stands at 1:400, is much higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended 1:1000.
Meanwhile, the doctor-patient ratio in northern states is much less than the WHO recommendation. The shortage of doctors is very severe in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. Bihar has the worst doctor-patient ratio with 1: 28,391. Uttar Pradesh comes next with a doctor-patient ratio of 1: 19,962. The doctor-patient ratio in Jharkhand is 1: 18,518, while it is 1:16,996 in Madhya Pradesh and 1:15,916 in Chhattisgarh. In these states, rural people are the most affected as most of the doctors are not willing to serve in rural areas.
“We decided to prepare a pool of doctors who are willing to serve in
rural areas in the northern states on the request of the union health ministry. The request was made by the health minister in a national-level coordination committee meeting. “Kerala has an excess of doctors, who can be utilized for service in rural areas in the northern states. We have been receiving a very good response from the doctors for our initiative,” said Dr N Sulphi, IMA state secretary. He added that the state unit is planning to submit the database by December this year.
National body to follow
Meanwhile, IMA is planning to follow the initiative of the Kerala unit at the national level. “We are planning to adopt it at the national level. Southern states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu have excess doctors. These doctors can be deployed in the rural areas of northern states, where there is a shortage,” said Dr R V Asokan, Secretary-General, IMA.
However, Dr Asokan emphasised that doctors from other states, who are willing to work in rural areas in northern states, should be given proper employment and not contract employment. “They should be given government jobs with all the due advantages. No such programmes will be successful without government support. If successful, other states with excess doctors are also likely to follow suit.”
The union health ministry is also planning to allow practitioners of other streams of medicine to practice allopathy by offering them a bridge course. “The government can drop the plan by deploying doctors from other states in areas where there is a shortage of doctors,” averred Dr Asokan.