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Dearth of skilled and trained personnel is one the biggest challenges the healthcare delivery system of India faces today, according to the Third Annual Wellness Conference report 2011 brought out by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). The debate is likewise centered on the improper utilization of existing resources which is making matters worse.
According to data published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in April 2013, seventy per cent of the posts of specialists like surgeons, physicians, paediatricians and gynecologists at Community Health Centers (CHCs) across the country are currently standing vacant1.
“As far as the talent crunch in healthcare goes there are two major issues leading hospital chains are facing today - inadequacy and underutilization. Not only are we faced with a massive shortfall of trained medical professionals, we are also having a tough time putting the available talent to use. Optimum utilization of available resources is a big issue”, says Dr. Vishnu Panigrahi, Group Head, Medical Strategy and Operations, Fortis Healthcare Ltd, New Delhi.
Experts believe that improper utilization of resources needs to be looked at in the context of the huge shortfall of medical professionals in India. According to WHO there are not even seven physicians per 10,000 patients in India. As of now, there is a net shortfall of 600,000 doctors in the country.
“The current underutilization of skilled people in the healthcare industry is undoubtedly a concern about the evolution of healthcare delivery in the country. The sad reality is that healthcare professionals are many times placed inappropriately, not in accordance to their fit for the role. This needs to be addressed immediately”, says Arvind Pandit, CEO VIA Health Resources, a specialist healthcare focused executive search firm.
Although to combat the projected shortage, India plans to establish 200 more medical colleges, experts feel there is a lot more that needs to be done as the problem cannot be sorted out only at the primary health level. Moreover, the perception that there is no problem in the urban areas, and it is only the rural areas that need work is not entirely correct.
Dr. J. Kumar, a senior Neurosurgeon, and Practice Head, VIA Health Resources says, “It’s not just the rural areas, urban areas too face a critical shortage of doctors. Of course, the infrastructure is mostly in place in the urban areas but there are just not enough trained professionals to put it to proper use. The absence of a mechanism to put right people in the right roles complicates the situation further”.
So what’s the solution? Experts agree that in the long term the processes that have already been set in motion by the government will go a long way in helping deal with the problem. However, they point out that in order to provide infallible solutions it is also important to identify channels which could ensure that the proficiencies of existing healthcare professionals are utilized properly. In that context the development of a proper recruitment channel could bring about enormous benefits.
According to Swadeep Srivastava, CEO Via Media Health, “It’s not just about the talent crunch and the problems hospitals face in functioning smoothly. There is also the important question of hiring the right professionals so that healthcare delivery mechanisms function smoothly. Executive search channels which provide sustainable solutions to suit the needs of both the hospitals and the professionals coupled with optimum utilization of resources are the need of the hour.”
2. India’s health workforce: Current status and the way forward, S. GARG, R. SINGH, M. GROVER,The National Medical Journal of India 2012