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Urgent need to re-introduce Indian Medical Services to address India’s healthcare needs: Experts

Leading medical experts representing public and private sector underscore the need for re-introducing Indian Medical Services akin to Indian Administrative Services

Think Change Forum (TCF), an independent think tank dedicated to generating new ideas and finding solutions for navigating through a new changing world recently held a panel discussion titled – Is it time for India to resurrect Indian Medical Services? The discussion highlighted the imperative of strengthening the public healthcare system and emphasised the pivotal role that Indian Medical Services (IMS) can play in achieving this objective.

The panel comprised representatives from medical associations, public sector health institutions, and the private medical sector. Names included Dr Sharad Agarwal – National President, Indian Medical Association (IMA); Dr Varuna Pathak – Former Professor of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal; Dr Sita Naik – Professor and Head of the Department of Clinical Immunology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences; Dr Vidur Jyoti – Senior Director & Head, Minimal Access & General Surgery, Max Hospital, Gurgaon; Dr Rajesh Gupta – Additional Director, Pulmonology & Critical Care, Fortis Healthcare, Noida; Dr SL Vig – Assistant Professor Community Medicine – ESIC Medical College Faridabad.

Experts urged for the introduction of an elite cadre for medical experts under Indian Medical Services (IMS) akin to Indian Administrative Services (IAS).

IMS will help bring the sheen and trust back to the public health sector which has been lost to the private sector; help stop the brain drain from public medical services by attracting and retaining the best medical talent; allow for superior healthcare outcomes with better-managed facilities and processes, as no longer generalists will be managing the specialists; reduce health crises and reduction in tertiary cases by improved preventive healthcare at primary levels; and last but not the least will enable seamless coordination between states and centre for healthcare policy making.

Dr Gupta said, “The majority of the Indian public relies on the private sector for healthcare services, with 60 per cent of inpatient admissions (IPDs) and 80% of outpatient visits (OPDs) occurring in private facilities.”

Dr Pathak, elaborated further, “Most of the time, we observe systemic failures in healthcare, which are not necessarily the fault of healthcare professionals but rather of the administrator who would typically be a generalist bureaucrat.”

Dr Vidur Jyoti said, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges and bottlenecks encountered in managing contingencies were primarily attributed to bureaucratic hurdles rather than any lack of commitment from healthcare professionals.”

Dr Agarwal said, “The implementation of IMS holds the promise of enhancing service quality through induction of skilled doctors and addressing the persistent doctor shortage, especially in rural areas. Crucial to its success is equipping the cadre with ample facilities and resources comparable to those provided to IAS or IPS officers. This will ensure that doctors are incentivised to join IMS, drawn by a clear career trajectory and motivated to serve communities, even in remote areas.”

Dr SL Vig said, “For fresh medical graduates, the IMS can serve as a promising career path, commencing with postings at district or block levels. Advancement of opportunities within the cadre should be structured, allowing progression based on experience, from community health centre (CSC) to district, state and eventually ministry levels.”

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