Friday, March 13, 2015

Problems at AIIMS

While the present government has chosen to continue with the UPA regime's policy of opening new AIIMS in different states, how well has the original AIIMS at Delhi been functioning? M. Rajshekhar has a two-part   series in The Economic Times on this very question. Here's an excerpt from the second part from a section on the governance structure of AIIMS, and how the Health Minister's leadership of the board poses problems:

Corruption and nepotism

A handful of India's public health institutions are deeply respected across India. There is AIIMS, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI) Chandigarh, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru, and Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (Jipmer), Pondicherry.

Of these, AIIMS stands out in one important way. Says a former health secretary: "There is greater political interference in AIIMS than in other colleges like Nimhans or Jipmer. It is almost a tradition that the health minister will be the chairman of AIIMS."

An MP on the board of AIIMS, who spoke to ET on condition of anonymity, said the minister outranks everyone else on the AIIMS board. As per the AIIMS Act, the governing board should have the DG (health services), representatives from the ministries of health and finance, four medical scientists, one "non-medical scientist" and three MPs. "In this board," said the MP, "everyone is at the same level — below the minister. So what he says goes."

Should the health minister also be AIIMS' chairman? Does this indeed leave AIIMS autonomous? "It's a position with a lot of prestige and power. They can oblige people by getting them admitted into the hospital," says the health ministry ex-CVO.