Shortage and inequalities in the distribution of specialists across community health centres in Uttar Pradesh, 2002-2012

BMC Health Serv Res. 2019 May 24;19(1):331. doi: 10.1186/s12913-019-4134-x.


Background: The onus of providing affordable access to specialist services in rural India primarily lies with publicly funded rural hospitals, also known as community health centres (CHCs). However, no studies have attempted to measure the change in the shortage and distributional inequalities of specialists in the publicly funded rural hospitals of Uttar Pradesh (India). This study attempts to fill that gap.

Methods: The study uses data from the three latest rounds of the District-Level Household Survey, covering a period of 10 years spanning from 2002 to 2012. Shortages were measured against the Indian Public Health Standards for CHCs, and inequalities were measured using Gini and Theil indices, with the latter decomposed to reveal the source of the inequalities. Negative binomial regression was applied to examine the association between facility characteristics and the availability of specialists in CHCs.

Results: The current shortage of specialists stands at 80.7% of the total requirement. Currently, 62.1% of CHCs are functioning without a specialist. The distribution of specialists across CHCs has become progressively uneven over the study period, as shown by the rise in the Gini index (from 0.41 in 2002-2004 to 0.74 in 2012-2013). Decomposition analysis reveals that the contribution of within-district inequalities to overall inequality remains high (85.4% of total inequality). About 50% of within-district inequality is contributed by only 20 districts, most of which belong to eastern and central Uttar Pradesh. The analysis of factors affecting the distribution of the current specialist workforce revealed that the number of available specialists at a CHC is positively associated with the availability of residences for doctors and regular electricity supply, and negatively associated with CHC location and the distance of the CHC from the district headquarters.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that Uttar Pradesh not only needs to recruit more specialists, but it also requires proper implementation of deployment and retention policies to ensure equitable access to specialist care for rural populations. Ensuring the availability of quality accommodations and basic amenities at all CHCs, as well as adequate transport and rural allowance, could help increase the chances of specialists staying in rural and far-off CHCs.

Keywords: Community health centres; Health worker shortage; Human resources for health; India; Specialists; Uttar Pradesh.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data*
  • India
  • Medically Underserved Area*
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Specialization / statistics & numerical data*