Idea Exchange with Dr. Devi Shetty-Cardiac Surgeon

In an event organized by Indian Express, “Idea Exchange with Dr. Devi Shetty”, the renowned cardiac surgeon and chairman & founder of Narayana Health, talked about the problems Indian medicine and healthcare system are facing and what can be done in that regard.

At the event, Dr. Shetty also shared his views on the cost of education in medical colleges in India, the gap between demand and supply of medical services, and the role of society in improving the situation. Here’s what he said:

We have a serious shortage of undergraduate seats (MBBS) and post-graduate seats (MD). That is the reason why all the corruption happens. All the scandals in medical education, why it happens? Because there are very few seats. If 10 lakh people apply, if there are only 60,000 seats, naturally there will be a lot of money changing hands.

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Now, the first thing is how a medical college is built? It costs 400 crore rupees to build a medical college. If you go to the Caribbean region, they are 35 medical colleges that are training doctors for US. which is in a rented 50,000 square foot in a shopping mall, training fantastic doctors for the US. Why are you spending 400 crore rupees and creating this edifice? It is ridiculous. All over the world medical colleges do not have this rigid requirement. Medical colleges don’t require 140 faculty members to train 100 students. 140 faculty members can run a medical college with a thousand students. So when the whole world has changed, we haven’t changed.

Today what we have done is done that we have medical education as an elitist affair. Poor children from when I was a young medical student, my classmates were all children from poor families. Today children from poor families are not dreaming of becoming doctors. This will have tremendous consequences. Outstanding doctors across the world, with magic in their fingers, most of them, come from a deprived background. Because these are the kids with the fire in the belly to work for twenty-four-hour, to change the rules of the game. If children from rich families become doctors, they opt for radiology, dermatology, and other specialties where they can go home at five o’clock.

So, essentially the problems we are having in healthcare are not because of the government. It is because the privileged society doesn’t ask the right question.

Why every 12 minutes a pregnant lady should die during childbirth? Why 3 lakh children die the day they are born? Why 1.2 million children die before celebrating their first birthday? It is unacceptable. Why? Because we are not asking the right questions.

Statistically, if these pregnant ladies had a very good anti-natal check-up; fourteen to fifteen percent of them need a cesarean section. That means we need to do 5.2 million cesarean sections per year. To do that, we need 2 lakh, gynecologists. We have less than 50,000 gynecologists and half of them don’t practice obstetrics because they don’t want to be woken up at night. All of them live in cities and 60% of children are born in rural India.

We need 2 lakh anesthetists, we have less than 50,000 anesthetists. We need 2 lakh pediatricians to take care of all the kids, we have less than 50,000 pediatricians. We need at least 1.5 lakh radiologists, we have less than 10,500 radiologists. Then how do you expect the mortality rate to come down?

It has nothing to do with money. This country doesn’t require additional budgetary allocation. This country requires liberating medical, nursing, and para-medical education. That’s all.

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