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We are desperately short of a million doctors and two million nurses: Dr Devi Shetty

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Stressing on the need for urgent measures to ward off acute shortage of healthcare professionals, he recommends exempting final year PG medical, nursing students from exams and enabling them to take up COVID-19 care for a year

Renowned cardiac surgeon and entrepreneur, Dr Devi Shetty highlighted the urgent need to ramp up the capacity of healthcare professionals in the country to battle the COVID-19 crisis. Speaking at the launch of the COVID Healthcare Professionals initiative by ECHO India,, he said that an acute shortage of doctors, nurses and technicians is going to hit our healthcare system in the coming days as the fight against the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.

He also urged healthcare professionals to take utmost care of their own safety and health as it would be crucial to ensure timely and quality care to patients.

Stating that the load of COVID care is shifting towards private healthcare, the Founder and Chairman of Narayana Health said that while everybody talks about the shortage of hospital beds, a larger problem is the crunch of skilled healthcare professionals, which needs to be mitigated on an urgent basis. He informed, “We are desperately short of a million doctors and two million nurses.”

Recommending measures to tackle this looming problem, Dr Shetty appealed to authorities that final year PG medical, nursing students should be exempted from exams this year and enabled to take up COVID-19 care for a year. He opined that this would lessen the shortage of the healthcare workforce to some extent.

“There are approximately 25,000 doctors who have finished PG in medicine and a sizeable workforce will be generated immediately if they are also exempted from exams on the condition that they work for one year in the government/private sector,” he said.

“It has always been a puzzle that when 26 million babies are born every year in this country and there is a huge requirement for health workforce—why are there only 50,000 medical seats for which ten lakh aspirants apply,” said Dr Shetty.

He also suggested that if all medical colleges double their capacity to train students, adopt one government hospital each and convert them into medical colleges, then the manpower crunch can be lessened.

He also emphasised on the use of technology to reduce human intervention in COVID care. Citing an example he said that if the need for nurses to touch patients can be reduced to some extent and senior doctors can be enabled to guide younger professionals without entering the ICUs, COVID-19 wards with the help of technological tools, then the healthcare professionals can be protected better from COVID-19 infection.

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