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Just 1 doctor to treat 11,000 patients: The scary truth of India’s govt healthcare

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Data shows there’s one govt-run hospital for 55,591 Indians, says country needs at least 5 lakh more doctors to meet world standards.

New Delhi: India requires over 10 times more allopathic doctors to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) prescribed norms for doctor-population ratio, reveals data released by the central government, with the country needing at least 5 lakh more government doctors to bridge the disparity.

As per data released by the Health Ministry, under the National Health Profile, on June 19, there is one government allopathic doctor per 11,082 population, one government hospital bed per 1,844 population and one state-run hospital for every 55,591 population.

The report also says that India has a little over 10 lakh allopathy doctors to treat its 1.3 billion people. This works out to a doctor to population ratio of 1:11,082; the WHO prescribes a ratio of 1:1,000.

The doctor density is far worse in the country’s poorer states. For instance, in Bihar, there is one government allopathic doctor per 28,391 population, down from 2013, when there was one government allopathic doctor per 20,207 population in the state.

While the WHO norms do not specify if it should include private and government doctors, they are used as a benchmark to measure the availability of a doctor per 1,000 population.
The ministry data is only for government doctors.

A dental crisis

The crisis is even starker in the dental sector, where despite a surge in dental surgeons, there is a striking imbalance in the average population being treated by them.

As per the report, the number of government dental surgeons has increased by five times, from around 50,000 in 2003 to over 2.5 lakh in 2017.

That works out to one government dental surgeon per 1,76,004 population – as against the WHO norms of 1:7,500.

Like in the case of doctors, the poorer states are the worst-affected.

Sample this: In Chattisgarh, there is one government dentist for more than 25 lakh patients. The burden on these surgeons has multiplied by almost six times in the last four years: In 2013, one government dental surgeon was serving 4 lakh patients.

In Jharkhand, the average population served per dental surgeon is more than 10 lakh whereas in Uttar Pradesh, a dental surgeon is burdened with more than 11 lakh patients.

One bed, too many patients

The data also points towards inadequate hospital infrastructure, and a huge disparity between urban and rural healthcare.

In India, there are over 23,000 hospitals with around 7 lakh beds. Almost 20,000 hospitals are in the rural area with close to 3 lakh beds. Urban areas have fewer hospitals, around 3,700, but the majority of the beds totaling above 4.3 lakh.

The data also shows that in some states, government hospital beds are being shared by patients.

In Uttar Pradesh, an average population served by a government hospital bed rose to 2,904 in 2017 from 181 in 2013 – reflecting a phenomenal increase in the demand for healthcare infrastructure and the failure of the government to match it.

Rot in healthcare

According to the data, India currently spends 1.02 per cent of its gross domestic product on health, far below Singapore which has the lowest public spending on health at 2.2 per cent of GDP.

The data, though, failed to throw light on ‘out-of-pocket’ expenditure, or direct payments made by patients to healthcare providers.

According to the WHO’s health financing profile, 67.78 per cent of total expenditure on health in India was paid out of pocket in 2017 against the global average of 18.2 per cent.

The per capita expenditure on health in India is Rs 1,112 but the average expenditure during one-time hospitalisation in India stands at Rs 26,455 – making medical treatment unaffordable for most Indians.

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  1. 1) Title : Just 1 doctor to treat 11,000 patients: The scary truth of India’s govt healthcare
    2)3rd Paragraph says ‘India has a little over 10 lakh allopathy doctors to treat its 1.3 billion people. This works out to a doctor to population ratio of 1:11,082; the WHO prescribes a ratio of 1:1,000

    DEAR HIMANI CHANDANA & THE PRINT TEAM – Pl examine & correct your statement. The Doctor and Allopathic Doctor Ratio is around 1:1300 (with 10 lakh allopathic doctors for 1.3 billion population)
    With Ayurvedic, Unani and Naturopathi, Siddharth the ratio is about 1:900.
    Dr.Lakshmi Prasad, 7675033335

  2. I just wanna know why the other medical systems like Homeopathic, Ayurveda, Unani weren’t added or considered.
    Even they do have a good practice with high medicinal values in it. As far as these systems are considered as doctors that will bring down the ratio.

  3. We need such eye opening stories. Hope someone addresses the issue. Education is also a similar concern. Two noble professions, medical & education, are always sidelined by our political system.

  4. We need such eye-opener stories. Hope someone really works on it. Great work done by the author.

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