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Friday 28th October 2016

India's bid to stem medical brain drain

5th June 2012

The Indian government is looking at a new programme that would require newly trained doctors to spend a minimum amount of time working inside the country, especially in rural areas, according to the West Bengal health minister.


Minister of State for Health Sudip Bandopadhyay said that the national government was working on plans that would ensure doctors served a compulsory stint in the country that trained them, especially in the countryside.

Bandopadhyay said that the government was spending huge amounts of money to train doctors and specialists, but that many of them were leaving the country shortly after graduation.

"We are planning to bring in a regulation which will make sure that the doctors serve in their state/country for a specific period," Bandopadhyay said, adding that the new plans would also include measures to increase the number of doctors overall.

He said the plans aimed to address a shortage of trained doctors in poverty-stricken rural areas, and that they would be implemented in West Bengal as well as nationwide.

Indian health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has also called on Indians who train as doctors overseas to sign agreements promising to return home and serve a compulsory three years completing the Bachelor of Rural Health Care degree once they have finished their studies.

Doctors have also hit out at the government's suggestions, saying that government compulsion is not the right way to deal with the crisis in medical staffing.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has proposed other measures to curb the staffing crisis, including raising the retirement age for doctors to 65, boosting rural salaries and incentives to attract retired doctors back into the rural sector, and a shorter, one-year compulsory rural service programme leading directly to registration with the Medical Council of India.

It has also called for more government investment in new medical colleges in rural areas, possibly with private partners.

The All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) is also suffering from severe staff shortages, with senior doctors continuing to resign or to request early retirement, amid allegations of poor management and nepotism at the highest levels.

Staff there have told the media that low pay, poor career progression and a poor working environment were leading many to consider moving to the private sector, where pay and benefits were far more attractive.

Private sector hospitals are head-hunting state-employed senior doctors in an aggressive manner, with one senior faculty member quoted as saying that he had been called twice by a major private hospital, which had offered him 10 times the salary he made at AIIMS and better perks.

He said similar offers had been made to "most faculty members," some of whom were seriously considering the proposal, he said.

AIIMS said it had recently launched a new recruitment process, interviewing more than 100 candidates, 40 of whom were successful.


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