Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Even as there has been much hype over the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana or Naveen care, the shocker is  Odisha languishes at the bottom - ten in doctor-to-population ratio in the country by January end 2019.

As per the data available with Odisha Medical Council and Medical Council of India, the State has around 18, 017 active registered medical practitioners by January 31, 2019.

When seen in the context of Odisha's current population of over 4.68 crore, the doctor to population ratio in Odisha is estimated at one doctor per 2,597 persons (1:2,597). The national average has been put at 1: 1,457.

The State's doctor - population proportion in 2017 was 1: 2,749 and the national average was 1: 1,597.  In a span of a-year, the proportion nationally and in the State has improved. Odisha Medical Council saw registration of 672 more doctors during the one-year period. But the gap between Odisha and national proportion has almost remained stagnant.

An analysis of the doc-population proportion by January end 2019 revealed that Odisha needed at least over 14,000 more doctors to level with the national proportion of doctor to population. From the current over 18,000 active registered doctors, the State actually needs a whopping 32, 120 active registered doctors to attain the national average of 1:1457.

What looks nagging is the State now sees only around 900 doctors graduating every year, but the active registered doctors in 2018 was down to around 672 only. The gap between demand and supply of doctors brings to fore the acute shortage of medical practitioners in the State.

Significantly, the total MBBS seats had seen a rise in 2018. The total MBBS course intake capacity in Odisha stands at around 1,350 now. Moreover, under the Centrally-sponsored scheme, the State could see addition of around 750 more MBBS seats by year 2020. Three more medical colleges in the districts of Puri, Baleswar and Balangir would commence their MBBS courses by the year 2020.

Will the increased intake make the State realise the WHO goal of 1 doctor per 1,000 population? It seems unlikely. Even then, the State has to wait till the year 2035 to attain the WHO proportion of doctor-to-population. Interestingly, at the current rate the country could achieve the WHO average by 2025.

According to data available with Medical Council of India, among 21 major States and UTs, including Assam and Delhi, Telangana topped the country with the poorest doctor-to-population ratio of 1: 9,885. Jharkhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha followed it. While Telengana has posted a maximum reduction in the gap, the proportion in Madhya Pradesh worsened, as a result it has fallen behind Odisha by Jan 2019 end.

Among neighbouring states, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have better ratios than Odisha. Assam also has a higher doctor-population proportion than Odisha.

Among the top performers, Goa with a proportion of 1: 493 topped the country. Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Maharashtra followed it.  All these States have ratios better than the WHO norm of 1:1,000.

Andhra Pradesh has a ratio of 1: 1,130 against WHO's 1:1,000. The reason: AP has around 31 medical colleges with a passing-out capacity of around 4,750 seats every year against only nine medical colleges and passing-out strength of around 900 in Odisha.  All top performers display the AP trend.