No Medical College, Insufficient Recruitment, and Unfavourable Service Conditions: Why Mizoram is Suffering from a Shortage of Doctors

13 July 2017
The blockade of National Highway 54 at Kolasib was the most recent of frequent protests in the state against the lack of doctors.
HT Photo
The blockade of National Highway 54 at Kolasib was the most recent of frequent protests in the state against the lack of doctors.
HT Photo

In 2005, Samuel Lalhruaizela, an 18-year-old resident of Aizawl, in Mizoram, secured admission to the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences at Sevagram village in the Wardha district of Maharashtra. At the time, he told me, he had neither heard of the medical college where he had been admitted, nor the area in which it was situated. Lalhruaizela recalled what the dean told his father and him when they visited the university: “You’ve come a very long way.” Indeed, they had. The state of Mizoram does not have a medical college—all aspiring medical practitioners from the state are compelled to travel outside their home state to study.

Lalhruaizela told me that although he knew how to read the Hindi script, the only words he knew at the time were hathi (elephant) and mej (table). He added that he was still unsure whether it was he or his classmates who had a bigger culture-shock after their interactions: he was frequently asked whether Mizoram had televisions in the state and whether the state actually did not have “even one medical college.” Lalhruaizela said he understood why it was unusual for them, considering the fact that Wardha, despite being one of the smaller districts in Maharashtra, had two medical colleges. “It didn’t matter how much I tried to make them understand we aren’t too backward. A state that doesn’t have even one medical college, after all, just can’t be perceived to be a developed state,” he said.

Mizoram suffers from a severe shortage of doctors in the state, especially in rural areas. The state’s health minister, Lal Thanzara, has attributed the absence of a medical college as one of the reasons for the same. In early June 2017, this issue of a shortage of doctors in the state flared-up in the Kolasib district. The state government’s health department issued an order transferring a surgeon from Kolasib to another town, Serchhip. Dr Zothansanga Zadeng, the surgeon from Kolasib whom the government proposed transferring, is the only surgeon at the district’s government hospital. The surgeon at Serchhip had recently been shifted to Lunglei town because the surgeon there had died. At a press conference on 9 June, Thanzara told the media that the state government’s rationale was that since another surgeon was currently employed at Kolasib under the National Health Mission—the central government’s flagship health-sector initiative—the town would accept Zadeng’s transfer. But that was not how it turned out.

Keywords: healthcare Mizoram doctors medical infrastructure medical college
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