Context: Political or geopolitical expediency or cultural chauvinism should not be allowed to undercut India’s health interests
- The Centre under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and the “Heal by India” initiative is developing an online repository of all categories of health-care professionals in the country.
- Though such an innovation is much needed because of the currently fragmented nature of such data, one of its proposed primary purposes is to aid external stakeholders, viz. foreign employers and patients in finding a right Indian match for their respective needs.
WHO forecast for India
- WHO 2020 report projected a requirement of nearly two million more doctors and nursing professionals for India in order to attain the minimum threshold ratio of health-care professionals to the population
- As per a study there is a veritable shortage of health-care personnel and their skewed skill-mix across a number of States, their current pace of growth is unlikely to result in any significant improvement in the density or skill-mix of health-care professionals by 2030.
- The current measure which aims to subtly reinforce medical tourism and worsen the out-migration of health-care professionals from the country is utterly counter-intuitive
Soft power projection
- A crucial distinction must always be drawn between exporting products such as vaccines and that of health-care professionals.
- While the first is characterised by a much simpler transactional math, training health-care manpower entails large subsidies thus entailing a net drain of resources from the native country
India needs a registry
- While an online health-care professionals repository will certainly aid foreign stakeholders in finding their right choices, there is neither a strong demand-side desperation nor a significant supply-side scarcity preventing a market to function well in its absence.
- Rather, it is at the national and sub-national levels that such an exhaustive and updated registry of health-care professionals is the need of the hour, for addressing the many challenges and disparities in health manpower availability, distribution, and skill mix.
While neither medical tourism nor out-migration can or need to be dispensed with in their entirety, to pursue them actively when the country is reeling under acute shortages in an aspirational decade for health care is least warranted.
In health care, which is characterised by perennially scarce resources and challenges, everything revolves around identifying the priorities right. And no amount of political or geopolitical expediency or cultural chauvinism should be allowed to undercut national health interests. It is time to go all out to address national health-care workforce challenges and heal the nation before embarking on a healing cruise of the world.
Source: The Hindu