Facing a Doctor Shortage, India Will Recognize Foreign Medical Degrees

March 28, 2008

To combat a severe shortage of doctors and in a move to attract back Indian doctors settled abroad, the Indian government has decided to recognize graduate medical degrees from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, provided they are recognized in the respective countries.

Until now, doctors with an undergraduate degree from India but a graduate degree from another country were not allowed to practice in India. Indian doctors with graduate degrees from the approved countries will now be allowed to practice in India at any public or private hospital. They can also be recruited to teach undergraduates in any medical college, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The doctor-per-person ratio (including practitioners of Western medicine, homeopathy, and Indian systems of medicine) is 1 to 870, according to the Indian government. Not including practitioners of non-Western medicine, that ratio increases to 1 to 1,634. In rural India 67 percent of enrolled doctors do not report for duty, according to the government.

“It is clear from the above statistics that the country is in dire need of medical specialists to cater to the increasing demands of public health care in rural and urban areas,” the health ministry said in its statement. “Vast stretches of the countryside are not well equipped with health facilities, doctors and para-medical staff, creating serious imbalances in the health sector.”

Increasing Indian medical-school enrollments and the number of medical specialists cannot be achieved immediately, the ministry said, adding there are many Indian citizens with foreign medical degrees living abroad who are willing to return to India. —Shailaja Neelakantan