Deciding how many doctors a state needs is notoriously difficult. Punjab, however, it seems, is creating an imbalance when it comes to producing doctors. In the past seven years, the number of MBBS doctors in the state has gone up by 15%. The dental doctors’ count has risen by 300% in the same period.
According to National Health Survey 2015, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of dental surgeons in Punjab. There were just 4,691 doctors registered with the Punjab Dental Council in 2008. The number increased to 12,375 in 2014. In sharp contrast, there were 36,550 MBBS doctors registered with the Punjab Medical Council in 2008. The number went up to 42,013 in 2014.
The obvious question is why there has been a huge surge in the number of dental doctors in the state. Experts point towards mushrooming of dental colleges, mostly in the private sector.
“The state government’s policy to give random approvals to individuals and organisations to open private dental colleges has clearly backfired. The government has failed to open even a single government medical college the state in the past four decades. However, around 15 dental colleges have come up in the state in last 10 years,” says Dr Rajesh Kumar, head, school of public health, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh.
“The glut of dental doctors clearly shows that the government completely ignored the theory of demand and supply,” says Dr Ashok Utreja, former head, Oral Health Sciences Centre, PGIMER and former president of Indian Orthodontic Society.
Experts say the oversupply will force dental doctors to look for job avenues elsewhere. “Nobody has bothered to scientifically assess the need for producing so many dental graduates in the state. The colleges are finding it difficult to fill seats as students are shunning colleges with poor infrastructure facilities and low quality of teaching,” says Dr Utreja. “It’s a warning sign.Authorities should take steps to reduce the number of seats in dental colleges,” he says.