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Greener pastures in India attract NRI docs

india Updated: Feb 13, 2008 01:18 IST

IANS
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Dinesh Bhargava carries with him over 30 years of successful overseas practice in plastic and reconstructive surgery. But the US-based doctor is craving to start afresh in India.

"Having studied in New Delhi's prestigious Maulana Azad Medical College during 1964-73, I wanted like many others to pursue a career in plastic surgery in India. There were limited opportunities then in India," Bhargava told IANS.

He is among many doctors who went overseas decades ago in search of greener pastures but who are now coming back to India. "Now things have changed significantly. Our country offers you almost everything," said Bhargava.

Bhargava went to Albany in 1974 and did his residency and training at the University of Rochester and the Westchester County Medical Centre. A Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS), a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, Bhargava still wants to return.

He is setting up his own aesthetic surgery centre at Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital in Vaishali in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

"Things have metamorphosed over the years in our country. What earlier used to be anathema (plastic surgery) is now assuming the proportions of a craze. The desire to look beautiful is gaining ground. People are willing to spend money on such things."

Along with Bhargava, another US-based interventional cardiologist, Surendra Garg, is joining the Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital. Garg has been based in Detroit, Michigan, and has over 24 years of experience. "It is good to return to the motherland. I am really thrilled to be back with a mission to serve people in India that offers you equally promising opportunities. Things have changed a lot over the years," Garg said.

The trend looks set to pick up, in view of recent developments in the West, particularly in Britain and the US. "The so-called greener pastures overseas are fast losing their sheen, as the offers from abroad are no longer so lucrative," said SN Mishra, president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the apex body of Indian doctors.

"Indian health services are witnessing manifold growth in terms of quality and size and they are financially viable too. As a result, many Indian hospitals offer very attractive packages to doctors.

He had another interesting observation: "Compared to north India, a higher number of doctors are settling back in the southern parts. In fact, many of them are setting up their own nursing homes and hospitals with the help of local doctor investors."

Anil Bansal, a member of the Delhi Medical Council, said: "A sense of insecurity is also increasing among NRI doctors. The UK recently came out with new immigration legislation, abolishing permit-free training for overseas doctors, mainly Indians. Such moves are now acting as deterrents, and many doctors are coming back to India."

"As per estimates, there are around 15,000 Indian doctors in Britain. A recent British Medical Association report says one in three doctors in Britain has been a victim of physical attacks in clinics. It is happening against people in the US. All this is significantly influencing the decision of NRI doctors to return home."

Added Bhargava: "There are opportunities galore for all at home. Staying back is now a serious option before freshers as well. The training and education available in India is one of the best."

Bhargava seeks to have a world-class centre for aesthetic surgery at Pushpanjali Crosslay hospital, a 400-bedded multi-speciality hospital coming up along National Highway 24 along the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Vaishali.

"It is a project floated by a group of doctors based on the cooperative model. It is an experiment that excites us, as such an arrangement not only talks of affordable healthcare but also gives a sense of professional security to the doctors," Bhargava said.

Said DS Rana, honorary secretary, board of management, Sir Gangaram Hospital: "India now offers not only respect but also a chance to earn almost on a par with what one can earn in the US or Britain. Social values too attract them back home. Many friends of mine in the US are willing to return to the country."

In the last three or four years, many NRI doctors have joined his hospital, and Rana feels the number will go up if the government improves civic amenities in the country's bigger cities.

"Poor civic amenities continue to be a deterrent. If addressed effectively, the number of homeward NRI doctors would further rise. Many of them even wish to take up even non-medical activities like setting up schools."

(Rajeev Ranjan Roy can be contacted at rajeev.r@ians.in )