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Empower more people to take care of COVID-19 patients: Devi Shetty

He says a regulatory change can improve India’s pool of healthcare professionals

India will face an acute shortage of doctors, nurses, and technicians in the next few weeks and months unless the government takes a dramatic decision to empower more people to take care of COVID-19 patients, warned Devi Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Health.

According to Dr. Shetty, the country can quickly make available a large number of final year nursing and MD students to the healthcare workforce by changing regulatory requirements. The Ministry of Health, Nursing Council of India, and other healthcare bodies should work on this front and many countries are already doing it, he said.

There are around 1.5 lakh nursing students who are waiting for their BSc and GNM final exams. If the government decides and tells them they need not appear for exams if they are willing to work in COVID-19 care, the country will immediately have a large pool of nurses. Also, there are over 25,000 MD students who can join the workforce to fill in the shortage of doctors.

“What is an exam after-all? No one learns anything new by writing exams. It is only a certification. So, if the government makes the necessary regulations, we can quickly increase the pool of healthcare professionals,” Dr. Shetty added while speaking at a webinar organised by Covid Healthcare Professionals (CHP), a not-for-profit joint initiative between Echo India and Naukri.com.

Commenting on the current scenario, he said, “There is enough and more beds in the country. But, sadly beds do not take care of patients, and doctors and nurses are in short supply."

According to him, it is extremely critical for hospital managements to protect their existing doctors, nurses, technicians and paramedical staff from COVID-19 as at times they can get carried away. “In the short term, we cannot have more healthcare workers than what we have now. And this battle may last for a few more months or a year,” he cautioned.

Dr. Shetty further said the country required a fluid healthcare force comprising at least 150,000 nurses and 50,000 doctors. “They should be young and technically skilled to manage patients in ICUs. COVID-19 behaves in a more or less predictable manner; it goes from one city to another, one location to another. A fluid healthcare team can be deployed wherever it is required,” he added.

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