No one can blame Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss for being exasperated and angry at the doctors’ strike in the country’s premier health facility, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi. Patients, many of them from other states, have been lurching from pillar to post for medical help while doctors agitate over not receiving their certificates. The minister has also expressed disquiet over the fact that doctors who benefit from the highly subsidised education in such facilities waste no time in going abroad. In fact, about 60 per cent of those who graduate from AIIMS leave for other countries. Yes, this constitutes a brain drain at the cost of the taxpayer. But, with increasing free movement of labour and goods, such outward migration of skilled professionals cannot be stopped by government fiats.
The state could, however, make it more expensive for doctors to leave after securing a good education here. Instead of such heavy subsidies in specialised higher education courses like medicine, the fees could be hiked and loans made available to students. These could be repaid after the doctor’s income reaches a certain level. This may not stop doctors from leaving for foreign lands, but it would certainly ensure that they pay back for the services provided. Another thing the minister might like to ponder on is the fact that government doctors in India are poorly paid and seriously overworked. The government would like to make it compulsory for doctors from State-funded facilities to work in rural areas for a year or two after graduation. A noble thought, but given the appalling lack of facilities and infrastructure, it does not seem feasible. Much more must be done to make it attractive for doctors to stay on in India and operate from within the State-run system.
The private sector in medical services is undergoing a boom today with lucrative pay and perks. So, the competition really begins at home where private facilities are attracting the best talent coming out of medical schools. In fact, Indian doctors returning to India are flocking to private hospitals whereas their expertise would be invaluable in the public health system. But for this there has to be serious upgradation of pay scales and perks in this sector. So minister, here is a good opportunity for you to administer a dose of medicine to get an ailing system back on its feet.