21st century economy will be driven by health sector

ENARADA, Bengaluru, March 19, 2016

By Guruprasad

It is high time to address the shortage of medical specialists’ in our country, according to Narayana Health chairman Dr Devi Shetty.

Dr.Devi Shetty

Dr. Devi Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Health Foundation

Speaking exclusively to Enarada.com, Dr Shetty said, India can become the first country in the world to dissociate healthcare from affluence and we can prove to the world that the wealth of the nation has nothing to do with the quality of healthcare it’s citizen can enjoy.

“This can only happen if we address the shortage of medical specialists. Indian economy dramatically got transformed because of the software professionals who are trained in thousands of engineering colleges across the country. Today, we have an opportunity to become the healthcare provider for the whole world just by liberating medical education. Global healthcare and wellness industry is a 7.2 trillion dollar industry which is four times bigger than software industry. In this industry we can be the dominant player and dramatically change the economy of our country by creating millions and millions of jobs for doctors, nurses and medical technicians, “he said.

A pregnant lady dies in every 10 minutes

India has one of the highest maternal mortality and infant mortality rates in the world comparable with sub-Saharan African countries. Even countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have better results than India.

“We can never be a super power unless we take care of the health of 60 per cent of the population living in rural India. Inspite of massive investment through National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and government’s major effort to reduce the maternal mortality and infant mortality, every 10 minutes a pregnant lady dies in India during child birth, three lakh children die the day they are born, 1.2 million children die before celebrating their first birthday, “Dr Shetty said adding that shortage of medical specialists in rural India was the main reason for pathetic healthcare for 60% of the country’s population.

“Let’s look at just maternal mortality in India. Twenty Six million babies are born in our country every year. A conservative estimate is that 20% of the pregnant ladies will require caesarean section. That means we need to do 5.2 million caesarean sections per year. To perform 5.6 million caesarean sections per year we need at least 2 Lakh gynaecologists and we only have about 40,000 gynaecologists. A good number of them do not practice obstetrics and most of them live in big cities. To perform 5.2 million caesarean sections, we need at least 2 Lakh anaesthetists and we only have about 40,000 anaesthetists; we need at least 2 Lakh Paediatricians to take care of the 26 million babies who are added to the existing children’s population and unfortunately we only have about 23,000 paediatricians; we need at least 1.5 Lakh radiologists to do the ultrasound on these pregnant ladies and we only have about 10,000 active radiologists in the whole country. In good old days a MBBS doctor could anesthetize a patient and perform a caesarean section and even do an ultrasound without a post graduation degree. Today MBBS doctors are legally not allowed to perform any of those procedures without a postgraduate degree. If he does any of those tasks, such doctor is likely to lose his medical license, “Dr Shetty exclaimed.

So what needs to be done?

It is mainly because in countries like USA, they have about 21,000 under graduation seats in medical colleges and close to 39,000 post-graduation seats to train medical specialists. In India there are 52,715 under-graduate seats in various medical colleges and only 14,500 post-graduate seats in clinically relevant subjects like gynaecology, anaesthesia, radiology and paediatrics. Because of the huge disparity in the ratio of under graduation and post graduation seats at any given time there are over 2 Lakh young doctors spending 2-5 years in attending post-graduate entrance coaching classes in Kerala or Kota and not treating patients. Unless, the government equalises under graduation and post graduation seats across the country without any delay, there was no hope for reducing the maternal mortality and infant mortality. Until such time there is not going to be affordable healthcare for 80% of the country’s population.

“The economy of 20th century was driven by machines which addressed the human toil. However, economy of 21st century will be driven by health sector. Today we have a great opportunity to be the global leader in providing healthcare to the planet. Indian doctors have created a brand in western world. For an American or an English man Indian’s face reminds him of the face of a compassionate, competent doctor with magic in his fingers. Now we have to encash on the brand what is created and change the economy of our country,” Dr Shetty added.

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