Expansion of AIIMS Network — India’s Medical Progress
AIIMS – A Household Name
“AIIMS has become a household name in India and abroad with people from all strata of society looking up to it to provide unbiased, affordable and quality healthcare.”
This is how Prof. M C Misra, Director All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) opens his vision statement. This is just about right. For decades now, when the average Indian has sought the best of medical facilities and treatment, he has looked towards the AIIMS.
There was a time, in the bygone decades, when the AIIMS was the hospital of the rich and mighty. Along with the massive expansion in the past couple of decades, though, the country has been witness to a radical transformation in its outlook.
Establishment of AIIMS Delhi
Within a few years of India’s independence, the pressing need to set up a grand scheme for the development of science and medicine in the country was felt. It became important that the government lay the foundation for institutions that would foster research and go on to become centres for excellence in medicine and health studies.
In 1946, Sir Joseph Bhore had chaired a committee that recommended setting up a national medical centre with the best of facilities and employing the best of medical practitioners, in the national capital.
The New Zealand government agreed to providing India a generous grant based on this proposal and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, along with the then Health Minister Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, lay the foundations of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in 1952.
The institution was inaugurated in 1956 and was deemed an autonomous institution governed by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Act, 1956. Through the rest of the century right up until 2012, AIIMS Delhi was the only AIIMS institution and is still considered the nucleus of health care excellence in the country.
With the establishment of more AIIMS colleges and hospitals in 2012, these institutions have been declared Institutions of National Importance.
2012 – Expansion of AIIMS
Since its inception in 1956, AIIMS Delhi has remained right on top of both – the best institutions imparting medical education in the country and the best hospitals offering world-class medical facilities and treatments.
On an average day, AIIMS Delhi provides treatment to some 2,400 in-hospital patients and 9,000 OPD patients who come here from the far reaches of the country. Lakhs of patients are treated through the community outreach programs of this institution each year. 25 departments, 4 super speciality centres, an excellent medical and para medical education centre – and yet, AIIMS Delhi falls far short of the growing needs of the burgeoning population of the country.
The expansion of the AIIMS institutions was one of the key agenda points of the BJP government led by PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In his Independence Day address, he announced that the government would allocate funds and construct six other AIIMS hospitals and medical colleges, under the auspices of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).
The cities chosen for these institutions were Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur, and Rishikesh. By 2012, these were inaugurated and since then have been providing the people of their respective regions with exemplary medical facilities.
With regional medical development need growing and with India becoming the medical tourism hub of India, the government promised to further develop the AIIMS network.
In 2009, the Government of India (GoI) announced its decision to come up with an AIIMS at Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh and one at Raiganj (later moved to Kalyani) in West Bengal.
In the 2014 budget speech, the Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley promised allocation of Rs 500 crore for the development of AIIMS-like institutions in Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), Hyderabad (Telangana), Kalyani (West Bengal), Mangalagiri (Andhra Pradesh), and Nagpur (Maharashtra).
While the FM had said that these would be “AIIMS-like institutions”, news reports following the cabinet’s approval in October 2015 revealed that the first three to receive approval were all part of the AIIMS network.
These are the ones to come up in Nagpur (Maharashtra), Mangalagiri (Andhra Pradesh) and Kalyani (West Bengal). In the very next budget speech (FY 2015-16), the FM again came up with plans for building AIIMS in Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.
Where is the Focus?
For the first 53 years since the inauguration of the AIIMS, Delhi, this institution was undisputedly at the helm of medical education and treatment in the country. The facilities available here, too, are among the most sophisticated, the most modern available in our country. The government pumped in adequate funds for research and AIIMS Delhi set a stellar example.
The race to construct more and more AIIMS institutions across India has, however, taken away the focus that belonged to providing quality medical services.
It is quite understandable that the central government wants to please the states across the nation and has hence been announcing the establishment of AIIMS in these states, but the funds required to set up an institution rivalling AIIMS Delhi are not available yet.
Most of the new institutions that are up and running are not functioning to their optimum. Partial construction is hampering the functioning and very expensive equipment are lying unutilised, thereby pushing up the costs. A number of posts (nursing, technical, and even medical practitioners) are lying vacant.
Given the skyrocketing costs of medical treatment in private facilities, it is indeed admirable that the government is trying to set up multiple AIIMS grade institutions across India.
Given the state of affairs in the newly constructed institutions, however, it seems that the central administration should now halt any further expansion and concentrate on getting the 16 new institutions at par with Delhi AIIMS.