Heal the nation before healing the rest of the world

News: News: The Centre is developing an exhaustive online repository of all categories of health-care professionals in the country, under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and the “Heal by India” initiative

About the move

An online health-care professional repository will aid foreign stakeholders in finding their right choices.

What are the reasons for such a move?

Soft power projection: In the post-COVID-19 era, the countries want to project soft power through healthcare services. In fact, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) aims to improve cross-border trade in medical and health-care services.

What are the problems with creating an online repository of healthcare professionals?

The primary purpose of creating an online repository is to aid external stakeholders, viz. foreign employers and patients in finding a right Indian match for their respective needs.

The move will worsen the out-migration of health-care professionals from the country. This will be done at the expense of the nation’s own health interests.

The proposal indicates liberalization in healthcare sector, which is a shunned principle in the health care sector.

As per a study by WHO and the Public Health Foundation of India, India faces shortage of health-care personnel. India needs nearly two million more doctors and nursing professionals to attain the minimum threshold ratio of health-care professionals to the population.

India has a skewed skill-mix of health professionals across a number of States. Their current pace of growth is unlikely to result in any significant improvement in the density or skill-mix of health-care professionals by 2030.

There are health-care professionals who remain inactive and remain outside the labour force.

Other important measures taken by the government

The Union health Budget 2022 has put focus on training different cadres of health-care personnel. The government will utilise the existing capacities at the district and sub-district levels. Such a move was recommended in the Fifteenth Finance Commission.

Way Forward

The government should draw a distinction between exporting products such as vaccines and health-care professionals because the latter require a lot of investment in training and involve a net drain of resources from the native country.

Further, India cannot afford to divert India’s scarce national health-care resources to medical tourism. It will worsen already worsened health equity in developing countries such as India.

This is not the right time to pursue medical tourism and out-migration because, at present, the country is reeling under acute shortages of healthcare professionals.

An online registry of health-care professionals would be beneficial at the national and sub-national levels. The benefits are:

(1) There are a lot of disparities in the availability, distribution, and skill mix of the health manpower.

(2) This would strongly complement measures such as an integrated public health cadre

(3) The initiatives will also help to train, deploy and retain more local manpower.

The political, geopolitical expediency or cultural chauvinism should not be allowed to undercut national health interests.

Source: The post is based on an article “Heal the nation before healing the rest of the world” published in the “The Hindu” on 23rd June 2022.

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