Health workers were praised worldwide for their tireless and diligent services during the Covid-19 crisis, not just for their role in providing healthcare and saving lives but also for working extremely long hours, grappling with limited resources, contracting diseases, and enduring needless and unwarranted aggression.
The health workforce crisis was widely publicized during this period, and many health workers are affected at multiple levels of patient care and treatment. On the one hand, the OECD countries greatly profit from a strong presence of Indian descent and Indian-trained doctors and nurses in times of crisis. On the other hand, the country’s health-care system is failing due to a lack of qualified staff.
Acute health workforce scarcity: Human resources are required to provide health care and maintain population health. States with a high health workers population ratio, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, also have high population health outcomes. A nation can only achieve its health goals if it has an ample, equitably distributed, adequately funded, and well-performing health workforce. Several research studies have repeatedly highlighted India’s scarcity of skilled and educated health workforce.
A recent study by the author and his colleagues, ‘Size, composition, and distribution of the health workforce in India, why and where to invest,’ published in Human Resources for Health in March 2021. It found that the health workforce’s density in India is less than half of the 44.5 health workers per 10,000 people recommended by the WHO for achieving universal health coverage.
Investment in the health workforce is required: Recognizing the acute shortage and unequal distribution of the health workforce, the central government proposed new educational institutions—157 medical colleges and approximately 50 nursing institutions in various stages: to increase doctors and nurses’ number. Every year, these institutions are projected to produce approximately 22,500 doctors and 2,000 nurses.
This means that even though all new graduates enter the health workforce, it will take more than ten years to add 2.5 lakh health professionals to the approximately 15 lakh skilled active health workforce. Since the population is expected to grow by less than 2% per year over the same time, the density of the health workforce per 10,000 people will only increase slightly by 2030.