NEW DELHI: A four-month-old infant whose parents brought her to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, last week for urgent surgery for a hole in her heart has been given a slot for the operation five years from now, in 2023.
This is the longest waiting period for a patient in AIIMS, Delhi, and has once again highlighted the massive burden on the premier institute.
The predicament of the infant’s parents also underlines the failure of the six AIIMS centres opened in other cities in order to ease the burden on Delhi.
The six regional AIIMS were opened in Patna, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Bhubaneswar in 2012.
“I am a poor man and I don’t have money to afford a cardiac surgery in a private hospital, but now I am helpless. To save my life (his daughter) I need to turn to some other hospital even if I need to borrow money,” sobbed the girl’s father Ram Kishore of Bageshwar district in Uttarakhand.
Conceding that the six new hospitals have failed to ease the pressure on AIIMS Delhi, a senior official in the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry blamed faculty shortage, resource crunch and infrastructural deficiencies.
“The government had hoped that those needing super specialist health care would benefit from these centres but that has not happened,” the official said.
“There are two reasons: one, the new AIIMS don’t have even half the 305 faculty strength and the pace of providing proper infrastructure, support staff and required equipment has been too slow,” said a senior doctor at AIIMS, Rishikesh.
Earlier this year, while announcing setting up of 13 more AIIMS, including two in Jammu and Kashmir and one each in UP, Assam and Punjab, Health Minister J P Nadda admitted in the Lok Sabha that the new hospitals have remained poor cousins of AIIMS, Delhi, which gets thousands of patients every day even from states where a new branch has been opened.
Public health specialists believe this pathetic state of affairs is mostly due to faulty health policies adopted by successive governments.
“Instead of strengthening primary and secondary care health facilities the governments have been announcing tertiary care centres but they should realise that it’s not easy to build institutions like AIIMS, Delhi overnight,” said Oommen John, a senior research fellow and internal medicine specialist at the George Institute For Global Health. “Can our politicians go to other AIIMS like institutions for organ-transplants?” he asked, hinting at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s recent kidney transplant at AIIMS, Delhi.
Anant Bhan, a researcher in global health, said merely calling an institute ‘AIIMS’ does not guarantee that it will be held in the same esteem as the one in Delhi. “AIIMS Delhi has earned a name for itself due to quality and affordability, but the new centres have challenges that need to be overcome,” he stressed.