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A doctor too many is medical malady
- Bengal has more physicians than it needs, yet is opening new colleges

How many doctors does the city really need'

For the state government, more is not enough as it goes ahead with its plans for more and more private medical colleges to churn out more and more doctors. But for the Indian Medical Association (IMA), this is not a healthy sign, as Calcutta — and, by extension, Bengal — apparently, has more doctors than it needs.

The government and the IMA are now set on a collision course, each side armed with figures and statistics put together after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee recently announced that the government would open more colleges to produce more doctors.

The IMA has decided to mount a campaign against the mushrooming of medical colleges. “We want quality doctors and not quantity. The scene is too crowded now,” says IMA (headquarters) joint secretary R.D. Dubey.

According to the guidelines for the ‘ideal’ ratio, set by the Mudaliar commission and followed throughout the country, there should be a doctor for every 3,500 patients. In Bengal, however, there is one doctor for every 2,041 patients, claims the IMA, based on government statistics.

IMA Bengal branch secretary Malay Patra said: “As per the national guidelines on doctor-patient ratio and the state’s population, as we have them from the latest census figures, the state requires only 23,000 doctors.” The West Bengal Medical Council figures, however, say the state already has 44,471 doctors. Add to that the 37,407 doctors who practice homoeopathy and 3,014 more who follow the ayurvedic system.

But that is just one part of the picture. Whereas the city proper continues to attract too many doctors — Calcutta has one doctor for every 830 patients — the rest of the state is far worse off, with one doctor for every 4,727 patients.

This, too, proves that the state government has not succeeded in redressing the imbalance, say doctors. A look at the figures 20 years ago shows how little things have changed. The Calcutta ratio then was one doctor for every 808 of the population and the rest-of-Bengal ratio was 1:5,386. “The government has not been able to address either of the imbalances in the city or the rest of the state,” said former IMA Bengal branch president Subir Ganguly.

The four under-graduate colleges in the city churn out 600 MBBS graduates every year. The North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, Bankura Sammilani Medical College and Hospital and Burdwan Medical College and Hospital account for more than 250. “But only having more doctors does not mean that the state is moving ahead in the health sector,” Patra said. “It is just getting too crowded.”

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