Monday, September 27, 2010

Doctors!!! Where are you sires??

A lot of buzz words are making news these days- Ganesha, CWG, anti-outsourcing, Dabangg, Salman Khan, Dengue, Malaria, munni, IE-9, KBC, KKK, Oracle-HP , Dell-HP etc etc. From page 1 to 15 of any newspaper, you invariably see various forms of only one of these buzzwords these days.

However, on one small corner of page 5 or 7 these days is a prominent piece of news- the issue of increasing the retirement ages of docs. Basically, for a long time, there has been pressure on authorities to increase the retirement ages of doctors. This has a two fold purpose- doctors can continue to guide upcoming doctors and young students by way of teaching and mentoring; and two, and more importantly, they can continue to fill up for the shortage of doctors that has been plaguing our country for decades.

Like any other such issue, this matter has been caught trapped in the typical proposal-evaluation-objections- delays loop that we have now come to know of. What happens to this issue, only time will tell. However, this does bring to mind a very important issue, due to which, page -5 for this coloumn ain’t sufficient. In our country, lakhs of students appear for Medical exams. At even a mere 10% rate, thousands graduate every year. Then why are we still SHORT of doctors?

In fact, we know of so many many many students who keep reappearing since they didn’t do too well in their previous exam. Medicine is a really tough and dedicated profession, and takes tremendous patience and hard work. From personal experience of close friends, I know this. But once you graduate and transition the initial struggle, you are ready! Medicine is a constantly learning profession, but the initial stage is the most important. Even then, with thousands becoming doctors every year, why this shortage?

One very common reason that most will cite is the population growth. The other reason that we often hear is the very commonly heard, brain drain. But that still leaves some questions to be answered. Shouldn’t the rate at which doctors grow mirror the population growth rate? I mean, it’s not as if new doctors REPLACE existing ones? So, shouldn’t the POOL of docs continue to grow? If we know that there is a shortage, why are more new doctors released into the system? This does not necessarily need to lower the bar in exams, but just modify the system so that more students graduate in.

The other question which very strongly needs an answer to is why does this brain drain continue to happen? Why is the best talent leaving the country? And probably, most importantly, we need to compare the BENFITS of retirement extension as an SOS tool with all of the options above. Increasing OPTIONAL retirement age should certainly be encouraged, but only because a doctor or a prof wants to contribute to the profession, not because we NEED him to.

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