“We are desperately short of a million doctors and another two million nurses,” Dr Shetty said and made a strong pitch for waiving requirements of clinical exams for final-year nursing students and MD students, so that they can manage Covid patients for a year in government and private hospitals.
“Some universities in UK and Italy have exempted final-year PG students and nurses and used alternative assessments to enroll them quickly in the healthcare system,” Dr Shetty said while responding to media queries after the launch of Covid Healthcare Professional (CHP), a not-for-profit joint initiative between ECHO-India and Naukri.com to meet the shortage of skilled workforce in India’s fight against Covid-19.
India has recorded more than 22 lakh Covid-19 cases and over 44,000 deaths till now. “We have withstood the Covid onslaught but will immediately need a fluid healthcare workforce of at least 50,000 doctors and one lakh nurses as the virus, behaving predictably, moves from one city to another,” said Dr Shetty.
“If the Indian Nursing Council and Union Health Ministry decided to exempt final-year nursing students from the exams so that they can manage Covid patients for a year, and if nurses volunteer to do so, then there will be a significant rise in numbers. There are approximately 25,000 doctors who have finished PG in medicine, pulmonology and a sizable workforce will be generated immediately if they are also exempted from exams on the condition that they work for one year in the government or private sector,” said Dr Shetty.
He cited the example of a shortage of anaesthetists and said that there are approximately 50,000 anaesthetists in the country, of which nearly half are above the age of 50. “It has always been a puzzle to me… when 26 million babies are born every year and there is a huge requirement for the health workforce… why are there only 50,000 medical seats for which there are 10 lakh aspirants,” said Dr Shetty.
He also said cross-subsidy was the only solution to make healthcare affordable. “Today, virtually every hospital is broke and there is no money to pay salaries. Hence, cross- subsidy is the only solution,” he said. The CHP initiative aims to bridge the demand and access gap between highly-skilled health professionals and healthcare facilities to manage and contain increasing number of cases across India, said Dr (Col) Kumud Rai, chairman and managing trustee, ECHO India.
“Our vision is to enroll more than 10,000, skilled and well-trained resources at the portal, in the next couple of weeks,” he said. Arun Duggal, chairman of the Covid Healthcare Professionals Initiative, said that more than 1,000 professionals from 26 states have registered at the portal. The programme was initiated with a mission to connect healthcare volunteers with hospitals requiring services towards managing and containing Covid-19 cases.