India’s rural health infrastructure may come under severe strain if Covid starts to sweep villages after having entered the previously unaffected tier 2 and 3 cities.

The national rural health data reveals that the shortfall of specialists at community health centres (CHCs) is a whopping 76.1 per cent even as 63.3 per cent of the sanctioned posts nationally are lying vacant.

CHCs are critical to rural healthcare. The current position of specialists at CHCs reveals that of the sanctioned posts, 68.4 per cent of surgeons, 56.1 per cent of obstetricians and gynaecologists, 66.8 per cent of physicians and 63.1 per cent of paediatricians are vacant.

Overall 63.3 per cent of the sanctioned posts of specialists at CHCs are vacant. Besides, as compared to requirement, the cumulative shortfall of specialists in villages is 76.1 per cent.

At primary healthcare centres, the first contact point between villagers and the medical officer, there is a shortfall of 71.9 per cent for male and female health assistants. For allopathic doctors at PHCs too, there is a shortfall of 6.8 per cent at the national level. This is mainly due to a significant shortfall of doctors at PHCs in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, MP, UP and Karnataka, the data reveals. Doctor availability fell from 24,676 in 2019 to 22,827 in 2020 across 810 district hospitals.

Rural health infra

1,55,404 sub-centres
24,918 primary health centres
5,813 community health centres

Vacancies at CHCs

63.3% specialist doctors
68.4% surgeons
56.1% gynaecologists
66.8% physicians
63.1% paediatricians

Source: 14 April, 2020, The Tribune