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Recruiting retired doctors in Madhya Pradesh

A primary health centre in Madhya Pradesh. Image credit: Teacher1943 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
To plug the state’s doctor shortage, the Madhya Pradesh state government is proposing recruiting retired doctors. 

The cabinet has approved the proposal, which seeks to address the seventy percent shortfall of doctors in the state-run healthcare facilities. Health minister Tulsi Silawat claimed that 2,633 doctors’ posts were vacant in the state, although other estimates put the figure higher at 3,926. In 2017, meanwhile, it was reported that government-run hospitals in the state required almost 10,000 additional doctors to satiate demand. In a stark indication of the impact of doctors’ shortage in the state, it was reported last year that, in nine years, staffing shortages were to blame for the deaths of as many as 72,000 children in the state’s government hospitals. 

There is a retirement age of 65 for medicos in Madhya Pradesh. Explaining the proposal to recruit retirees, Silawat stated “the government wants to take advantage of senior doctors’ experience. The doctors who dedicatedly served for thirty years before retiring will be appointed for one year and later it can be extended by another year.” Salawat claimed that 87 applications by doctor retirees had already been submitted to the state health department. 

It was reported earlier this year that 171 doctors employed in government-run facilities intended to retire in 2019. Ninety percent of the retiring doctors were specialists – likely to exacerbate the 68 percent shortfall of specialist doctors in the country. On average, approximately 150 government doctors retire in the state each year. Meanwhile, recruitment of doctors is struggling – with many medical graduates opting for careers in the private sector in lieu of the public sector. 

Across India, states including Goa and Punjab have taken measures such as raising the retirement age of doctors in order to cope with shortfalls of government doctors. Nationwide, meanwhile,  there is just one doctor for every 11,082 people. Recruiting retiree doctors and raising the retirement age are ways to plug the gap but, to effect the increase in healthcare staffing levels India needs, sustainable solutions are needed such as incentivising doctors to work in the public sector and expanding the number of medical education seats. Without taking the necessary steps to fill the gaps, it is patients who will suffer.

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