Shortage of doctors in India is a reality but more than that, the shortage is of professionally
equipped doctors. A World Health Organization report in 2016 stated that a huge percentage of
Doctors in India were not educated or trained for the position they held. As such, a huge chunk of
India’s population is denied basic medical facilities. Mostly, this strata of the population belong
below the poverty line or are of the lower middle class.
Since private hospitals charge exorbitant amounts while government hospitals fail in providing even
the basic facilities, marginalised sections of society are the worst sufferers in the scenario.
The situation was even worse in rural India, where apart from 18.8 per cent, no allopathic doctors
had a medical qualification. Considering the growing population of the country and emergence of
healthcare schemes like Ayushman Bharat as well as Healthcare sub-centres within a small distance
all over the cities and states, the requirement for doctors and other medical professionals has also
But, the time that it takes to finish medical studies combined with high education cost for medical
courses has led to a huge gap between the requirement and availability of doctors. It is also a reality
that more females are coming into the medical field. An old census reveals that India used to have
only 36 doctors per lakh population. But as of 2017, India has one doctor for every 927 people. But
the number includes doctors of allopathy, Ayurveda, homoeopathy as well as Unani.
So while the count of doctors has increased, partially due to the centre’s schemes, there is still a
need for doctors who are trained in pharmacology to be posted in Health sub-centres. India still
lacks specialists in majority states and patients must travel to metropolitan cities for better medical
Being an established doctor requires a lot of time and money and the usual trend is that only a
doctor’s offspring decide to become a doctor. Moreover, the Union Health Ministry did the scrutiny
of records and found out that 27% of doctors registered with the Medical Council of India were
doctors only on paper.
Another reason for the shortage of doctors in the country is the lack of educational infrastructure.
The number of seats in government, as well as private colleges for medical courses, is small. Also,
teachers lack quality and credibility. India trains approximately 52000 MBBS students every year.
Still, the shortage of doctors exists. It is also a gap of skills, more than education since doctors deal
mainly with the practical implementation of their knowledge. An improper study infrastructure leads
to a shortage of doctors as well as the addition of doctors who are not capable or qualified enough.
Also, more and more youth is focusing upon super-specialization which deteriorates the trend of
general physicians and regular doctors.
Brain drain is also one of the major causes of the shortage. A huge chunk of trained medical doctors
from India migrates overseas. It is seen that over 30% of doctors in the United States are Indians.
This shortage can be addressed in parts by addressing the root causes.
The capacity of universities offering medical courses must be increased. Also, more skilled teachers
are needed. E-teaching also addresses this issue. Another factor is to provide enough incentives for
doctors to work in the public sector. Many doctors, after being trained move overseas or join the
private sector or open their own clinics. Efforts must be made to make the public sector more
appealing. India requires approximately 66000 doctors just for managing Public Healthcare centres
and the number of doctors being trained for such is lower. A collaboration between the public and
private sector would act fruitful in such a situation.