'Uneven spread of doctors in India a worry'

Besides, problems like poor working environment, inefficient skill mix and migration add to the problem.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2006 17:30 IST

Uneven distribution of health workers and inefficient skill mix are a major worry for India, top officials of the World Health Organisation have said.

"India produces around 20,000 doctors every year. But, there is an imbalance in their distribution across the country. Besides, the country does not produce enough allied work force (skill mix) to assist the doctors," said WHO Deputy Regional Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh on the occasion of the World Health Day on Friday.

Singh said that in many cases, doctors do not like to get posted in rural areas. As a result, around 80 per cent of the posts remain vacant in these areas.

"India needs to improve its health education and awareness campaign to address the above problem. The literacy rate has to improve further," she said, adding that states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab were doing well in the health sector.

Besides, problems like poor working environment, inefficient skill mix and migration add to the problem.

WHO Southeast Asia Regional Director Samlee Plianbangchang said that migration of health workers from countries like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to developed countries was also a major concern.

"Around 20 per cent of the students going abroad for studies are not returning to these countries," he added. The largest numbers of doctors who migrate from Southeast Asia are from India," Samlee said after unveiling a health report titled 'Working together for Health'.

The report revealed that India is way behind developed nations in its health force. While there are only 62.5 doctors serving every 10,000 people, the number is 166 in Britain and 548.9 in the US.

Samlee also said that if India had to achieve the millennium development goal of reducing the maternal mortality rate by three-fourths and the child mortality rate by two-thirds then all these above problems had to be addressed quickly.

"There is a need for political will and increased investment in the health sector in India. The government should also formulate legislation to divide the growing distribution imbalance of doctors and bridge the urban-rural rural divide in areas like infrastructure, modern medical facilities as well as social security, personal development for health service providers."

The availability of health workers for primary healthcare varies from a low three per 10,000 people in India and Myanmar to 25 per 10,000 in the Maldives.

In the region, Thailand and Sri Lanka are doing considerably better than countries like India.

First Published: Apr 07, 2006 17:30 IST