April has been a harrowing month for all of us. The coronavirus cases have skyrocketed and the healthcare infrastructure has been found lacking. From lack of oxygen cylinders to black marketing of Remdesivir injections, everything went wrong.
In an editorial for The Times of India, renowned cardiac surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty spoke about the next crisis that’s going to hit us like a ton of bricks – the lack of qualified doctors. He said that people may lose their lives because there won’t be enough doctors available to attend to them.
In the last week, more than 3 lakh people have tested positive on a daily basis. The actual number of infected patients may be 5 times higher at 15 lakh. Even if 5% of these people need ICU care, the requirement for beds will go up to 75,000.
They will also need to stay there for 10 days. We’ll be woefully short of beds if this happens because we have just 75,000 – 95,000 ICU beds. These were fully occupied even before the pandemic peaked. Another major cause for worry is that a huge percentage of people will be young breadwinners of family. If they die because of lack of intensive care, it’ll have huge social implications. To prevent this calamity, we need to add at least 5 lakh new ICU beds. Additionally, we need more doctors and nurses to operate these ICUs.
According to Dr. Devi Shetty, India is the only country that can produce a few lakh frontline workers at a short notice. The government just has to change a few regulations. If they certify medical students who are preparing for their PG entrance examination, we’ll have 1.3 lakh more doctors.
There are thousands of diploma holders who haven’t been recognized by the medical council. There are also 20,000 doctors who have been educated abroad and are certified doctors, but they have been unable to pass the Indian entrance exam. As for nurses, there are 2.2 lakh students who have finished their course but are waiting for their final examination. If all of these people are recognized in exchange for them working in an ICU unit for one year, we will be able to meet the demand. If this does not happen, the fight against the virus will get worse.