Grim diagnosis: Govt health centres face shortage of doctors, shows data

The Rural Health Statistics 2020-21, released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, showed that across rural and urban areas, there is a 7 per cent shortfall of doctors at primary health centres (PHCs) and a 57 per cent dearth of doctors at community health centres (CHCs).

For a PHC, which is the first contact point between the village community and a medical officer, the norm is one doctor or medical officer per centre. And, a CHC, which acts as a referral point for four PHCs, is to be manned by at least four specialist doctors — a surgeon, a physician, a gynaecologist, and a paediatrician.

Almost two-thirds of the country’s population resides in rural areas and yet only 33 per cent of the total health workers and 27 per cent doctors are available, revealed the 2021 statistics.


Even though the number of health centres has increased in rural areas, the shortage of doctors in CHCs has risen from 45 per cent in 2005 to 80 per cent in 2021, and has remained constant in PHCs at 4.3 per cent.

In urban areas, the undersupply at PHCs is 9.8 per cent and at CHCs 34 per cent.

The distribution of the health workforce across states is also highly skewed, given some states have surplus doctors and some experience inadequacy.

Nine states and Union Territories face a paucity of doctors at PHCs in rural areas. In urban areas, the corresponding number is eight.

For CHCs, all states experience a deficit in specialist doctors in rural areas. Of the 21 states where urban CHCs exist, 17 states reel from such a deficiency.

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