Karnataka grappling with major shortage of doctors in govt hospitals

The shortage has raised concerns about equitable access to healthcare services, especially in underserved rural communities.

Bengaluru: Karnataka is grappling with a significant shortage of doctors in government hospitals, particularly in rural areas, resulting in more than 1,500 permanent doctor positions lying vacant.

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This dearth of medical professionals is impacting healthcare delivery in over 3,000 hospitals earmarked for treatment under the ‘Ayushman Bharat-Arogya Karnataka’ scheme, which aims to provide healthcare to around 6.5 crore residents of the state.

While the scheme encompasses over 2,000 government hospitals, the scarcity of doctors is creating disparities in medical treatment across these healthcare facilities.

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According to data from the health department, the shortage is particularly acute in rural areas, with 477 obstetricians and gynecologists, 237 surgeons, 375 pediatricians, 289 dental specialists, and 1,127 other specialists working predominantly in urban hospitals.

A significant portion of posts in taluk hospitals and primary health centers remains vacant due to a reluctance among doctors to serve in rural regions.

The situation has been exacerbated by the non-renewal of contracts for doctors recruited during the COVID-19 outbreak. After initially hiring medical staff on a contract basis for one year at the district level, the contracts were not extended after gaining control over the pandemic.

Government hospitals have undergone upgrades and received necessary facilities; however, a preference for better pay in the private sector has led graduates to shy away from working in government hospitals. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that many of the vacant positions are in rural areas, making recruitment challenging.

In response to the crisis, the Health Minister, Dinesh Gundurao, has recommended filling the vacancies on a contract basis and suggested recruiting postgraduates for positions available under Compulsory Rural Service.

Speaking to Siasat.com, Dr. S. Srinivas, president of the Karnataka branch of the Indian Medical Association, emphasized the need for immediate action, urging the government to fill vacant doctor positions promptly and provide adequate wages and facilities to those serving in rural areas.

The current shortage has raised concerns about equitable access to healthcare services, especially in underserved rural communities.

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