The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragile healthcare system of the country. It has put the focus back on multiple challenges being faced by the health sector – low investment, shortage of doctors, paramedics and hospitals. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of paramedical professionals and nurses in dealing with a health emergency.
Health aides, technicians, wellness occupations, and health professionals are likely to see the highest growth in labour demand by 2030 across countries, driven primarily by long-term trends such as ageing populations and rising incomes. As per the ‘Future of work after COVID-19′ report by McKinsey Global Institute, the post-COVID net employment change 2018-2030 for health professionals will be a whopping 112 per cent.
“There has always been a shortage of medical and paramedical professionals in the country. The coronavirus pandemic has just exposed the truth. Health has never been a priority for our nation. But, after coronavirus, these sectors will see an increase in the availability of opportunities,” said Dr Arun Kumar Gupta, president, Delhi Medical Council.
Despite the increasing requirement of health professionals, India has seen a shortage for a long time. In 2018, there were 11.54 lakh registered allopathic medical doctors, 29.66 lakh nurses and 11.25 lakh pharmacists in India.
The ratio of doctors and nurses to the population is also very low, as compared with the norms set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The doctor to population ratio in India is 1:1,511 against the WHO norm of 1:1,000 and the nurse to population ratio is 1:670 against the norm of 1:300, as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
The Indian government for the first time added a chapter on health in the 15th financial commission report and suggested some short-term resolutions to meet the demand of doctors and paramedical professionals. It stated that willing medical colleges may be allowed to run one additional course within their campus with an intake of 100 medical students.
As per the commission report, the shortfall of nurses is highest in Bihar, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Seats in medical colleges are highly skewed across States, with two-third of all MBBS seats in the country concentrated in seven states (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat).
“There is certainly a shortage of medical staff across hospitals. Consequently, it becomes hectic for on-duty staff, both physically and mentally. They are always under pressure, overworked and often working in longer than usual shifts. During COVID-19, we need to wear the PPE kit continuously for 6 hours, where we cannot eat, drink or use the washrooms. Due to a shortage of staff, patient care also gets affected. Paramedical and nursing professions are often neglected and not praised enough but are among the most crucial job roles,” Pooja Chauhan, Nursing Officer, AIIMS Delhi, told indianexpress.com.
To meet the demand of medical professionals, several states had started lateral recruitment drives. The Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Telangana invited applications for 50,000 posts on a contractual basis including doctors with MBBS degree, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists and other paramedical staff.
Based on a report by job search website naukri.com on hiring activity across India, recruitment in the pharma/biotech/healthcare sector increased by 29 per cent in February 2021 as compared to February 2020. There were a total of 2133 job postings on the portal for medical/healthcare/hospital professions in April 2020, which increased by 265 per cent in April 2021 with 5,656 job postings.
Pawan Goyal, Chief Business Officer, Naukri.com said, “The disruption caused by the second wave of COVID-19 has impacted the hiring activity. The current impact on the job market is less severe than what we saw in April 2020. Hospitality, travel, retail and education/teaching sectors continue to be the first few sectors to be most impacted as was the case during the first wave while the pharma/medical/healthcare sector remains shielded.”
Amid the second wave of Covid-19, the Punjab government had recruited 473 nurses in various hospitals. The Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) had also started a recruitment drive for 1937 paramedical posts. The South-Central Railway (SCR), in view of extraordinary circumstances due to the second wave of COVID 19 pandemic, had also filled up as many as 60 vacancies for medical staff on a contract basis.
“Post COVID, the demand for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) will definitely increase. Paramedical science is an evolving sector in India. Since central and state governments will want to recruit a sufficient number of medical professionals for any such pandemic in future, it is likely that the overall opportunities will see a rise,” said Dr Mohd Amir, assistant professor, Para Medical College, Faculty of Medicine, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
The commission report also added that the nurses could also be trained and allowed to practice as ‘nurse practitioners’ to prescribe forty-seven basic drugs. A one-year diploma course after MBBS for lab medicine and for ultrasound may be started. The government has also suggested that incentives need to be designed for doctors and paramedics to work in rural areas and bridge the supply-demand gap.
“The medical industry is bound to face challenges of its share, even after post-COVID. Parents will be more scared for their wards to enter any medical professionals in the next few years, but the job opportunities will increase and improve leaps and bounds due to the increasing demand for medical professionals. More students are likely to join paramedical courses in the near future,” Amir added.