When Pandu Ranga Rao took his nine-year-old son suffering from epilepsy to the Neurosurgery department in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, he was flung into a maelstrom of a nightmare. The doctors told him he will have to wait till 2026 for the surgery—a delay of 11 years. Rao, who travelled all the way from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh in the hope of getting world-class treatment, is a dejected man. But he is not alone. AIIMS sources say children who need paediatric surgery will have to wait for two to three years for their turn at India’s premier medical institution.
AIIMS, set up in 1956, is the jewel in the crown of India’s medical infrastructure. Successive governments have cleared construction of 17 new AIIMS-like institutions in 16 states, but only six became operational in 2014. An AIIMS source says with only three operation theatres and insufficient staff, the care situation is gradually worsening for children who travel to Delhi from thousands of kilometres away for neonatal surgery, paediatric neurosurgery, thoracic surgery, plastic surgery, gastro-intestinal surgery, hepatobiliary surgery, urologic surgery, onco-surgery and endoscopic surgery.