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Govt identifies vets, AYUSH and retired Army doctors to be trained to tackle Covid-19 cases

The PMO is readying personnel and processes to augment the country's preparedness to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

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New Delhi: The Prime Ministers’ Office (PMO) has identified doctors practicing alternative medicine, veterinary medicine as well as those who have retired from the Army to scale up the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, ThePrint has learnt.

The doctors, who will be trained, will be deployed based on when and where the need arises.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday constituted 11 empowered bodies, to be headed by secretaries, for planning and ensuring quick implementation of decisions needed to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“This group, in their meeting held on March 30, has suggested that the human resources, medical, para-medical as well as non-medical may be kept identified and trained…,” said the letter issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 31 March.

The idea for training is to utilise “their services as and when required, either for treatment and management, or for surveillance or other management work related to COVID19…”, said the letter accessed by ThePrint.

The move to alert and train doctors across the country is a significant step considering that at present there is one doctor for every 1,445 Indians, which is lower than the 1:1,000 ration prescribed by the World Health Organisation. What this means is every doctor in India is burdened by 445 extra patients.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 1,466 active cases in India.

Also read: Modi govt advises homoeopathy, Unani to prevent coronavirus that has no known cure yet

Availability of doctors

In November 2019, Union Minister of State for Health, Ashwini Choubey told the Rajya Sabha that around 11.59 lakh allopathic doctors were registered with state medical councils and the Medical Council of India (MCI) as of that March.

“Assuming an 80 per cent availability, it was estimated that around 9.27 lakh doctors were available for active service, which put the allopathic doctor-patient ratio at 1:1445,” he had said.

However, if AYUSH practitioners are counted, the doctor-to-patient ratio would stand at 1:860, much better than the 1:1,000 benchmark, he added.

“There were 7.88 lakh ayurveda, unani and homeopathy (AUH) doctors in the country and assuming an 80 per cent availability, it was estimated that around 6.30 lakh doctors practising traditional systems of medicine were available for service and considered, together with allopathic doctors, it threw up a doctor-patient ratio of 1:860,” he told the Upper House.

Also read: Forget coronavirus, homoeopathy can’t cure anything. It’s a placebo, at best

Who else can contribute their services?

The letter, signed by joint secretary Nipun Vinayak, also notes that nursing personnel, lab technicians, para medical personnel, other personnel working in health facilities could also be drafted.

The list includes AYUSH doctors and paramedical personnel, National Cadet Corps volunteers, retired army officers, ex-servicemen, veterinary doctors, Red Cross and other civil society organisations, gram panchayat and urban local bodies’ employees along the resident welfare associations.

This could be further extended to include more resources, the government said.

Also read: At current rate, India can see 30,000 COVID-19 deaths by May, no hospital bed by June: Data


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