The medical fraternity hit back at Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s plans to make doctors sign bonds that will force them to come back to India after completing their education abroad. This has been done to prevent doctors from leaving the country on the pretext of higher studies and eventually settling down there. Health Minister Azad’s view might appeal to populist sentiments but makes no medical or administrative sense if you consider the severe lack of colleges or facilities for higher medical studies. India produces 40,525 medical graduates who vie for 16,088 PG seats every year
“Any student travelling for further medical education to the US will have to give us a bond that he will return after completing the studies. In the last three years, 3,000 doctors went abroad for studies and didn’t return. If a student doesn’t return from the US, he won’t be allowed to practise there,” Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
This statement invited scathing criticism from the medical community, which said that the blanket decision to not process papers for a work visa in the US would only redirect brain drain to Europe or other countries with more lax immigration rules. Brain drain has always been a dodgy issue. While the government does provide subsidize education does it have the right to ask anyone to work in the country and not leave it? Does that come under infringement of personal rights?
“Expecting doctors to return to the country after finishing their studies is legitimate but this has to be supplemented by a well-developed framework for their guaranteed and gainful employment so that their knowledge and skills are adequately utilised either in AIIMS-like institutes or the district hospitals or in course of the extensive upgradation planned for medical institutes. It is important to couple regulation with an enabling environment and a positive pullback factor,” said Dr K S Reddy, former head of the department of cardiology, AIIMS, who headed a high-level expert group on universal healthcare.
Lack of facilities
There is also the issue that several disciplines like pharmacovigiliance and immunology or genetics have non-existent facilities in India and there is no scope for further studies or training unless the student goes abroad. They won’t even be able to use those skill here because the facilities are non-existent.
Is the brain drain really hurting us?
Another doctor said that the assumption that the best doctors leave due to brain drain is wrong. Considering the stiff PG competition it’s the mostly the people who don’t manage to get into Indian universities who go abroad. The solution to the problem isn’t a short term blanket ban by forcing doctors to return back but a long term solution where the medical facilities need to developed that medical fraternity don’t feel the need to leave the country.