Doctors in white coats with stethoscope around their necks thronged Bengaluru’s Cubbon Road on Monday as part of the "Save the Doctor" campaign that is lobbying for equalisation of under-graduate (UG) and post graduate (PG) seats in medical colleges.
Apart from the issue of the shortage of specialist doctors, the campaign will also ask for mandatory rural posting be included in internship and post-graduate training.
"Sending doctors to villages to run Primary Health Centres is a waste of talent. There are 30,000 Ayush trained in alternative medicine who can undergo a six month bridge course to prescribe basic allopathic medicines," said Dr Devi Shetty, former governing body member, Medical Council of India and founder of Bengaluru’s Narayana Hrudalayaya.
"Nearly 2 lakh young doctors in India spend more years in coaching classes mugging multiple choice questions than treating patients. These young doctors under the right circumstances can significantly improve the quality of healthcare offered to our citizens," added Dr Shetty.
There is an acute shortage of doctors and specialists in India, especially in villages and remote areas. India has 0.9 beds for 1,000 population, which is below the global average of 2.9 beds per 1,000.
To meet the shortage, the Medical Council of India recently increased the number of undergraduate seats to 45,600, which are likely to reach 50,000.
There are 12,000 PG seats, for which 1.1 lakh doctors vie for each year. In comparison, a developed country such as the US has 19,000 UG seats and 32,000 PG seats.
The disparity in the number of seats allotted for PG and UG students along with mandatory rural posting is stretching medical education for up to 13 years for some doctors.
In the last PG entrance exam under the (National Eligibility Entrance Test) NEET, over 1.1 lakh doctors gave the exam to claim one of the 12,000 seats.
"If things continue to remain the way they are and senior specialist doctors and surgeons continue to retire, there will be dearth of specialist doctors and surgeons in India," said a senior resident at New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
Almost 3 lakh medical students are part of this movement across India. Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) are supporting the movement.
"IMA supports rural posting but in the present situation, making it compulsory is not feasible because there is no structured posting in rural areas. Every PG student must do six months of rural posting as part of their course/internship," Dr Narendra Saini, secretary general, IMA.
"Every medical officer during their tenure is entitled for at least four to five promotions. For every promotion, one year rural posting can be made mandatory."
This, however, will exclude doctors who are in the private sector, many of whom graduate from government medical colleges.
TOMORROW: Dr Devi Shetty on the way ahead