Jaitley cautions Health Ministry against AIIMS micro-management

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressing the 43rd Annual Convocation of AIIMS, in New Delhi
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressing the 43rd Annual Convocation of AIIMS, in New Delhi

NEW DELHI: Stating that “over-involvement’ has in the past led to “crisis” for AIIMS, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here that the Health Ministry should play a supportive role to encourage the institution without getting into its “micro-management”.

Observing that the number of medical colleges are still “inadequate” in the country, he also said that a serious review is needed to increase the numbers of such schools.

The minister also advocated the need to take a serious look into the policy of organ donation by assessing the best practices around the world.

“I have been a keen observer of the institution (AIIMS). It grew through challenges and even crises at times. I wish to recount that one mistake or error which ministry normally makes is to get over-involved with AIIMS. I think this has led to several problems and crises in the past.

“Health Ministry has a great supportive role to play. It has to support and encourage the institution while not getting into the micro-management of it,” he stressed.

Pointing to the tenures of recent Union health ministers, the senior BJP leader further said that “to the credit of the present health minister (JP Nadda), his predecessor Harsh Vardhan and his predecessor Ghulam Nabi Azad, three of them deviated from the past practice, not getting involved in the micro-management of AIIMS, and left it to the professionals of the institution”.

“That break from the past makes your job easier,” he said at the 43rd Annual Convocation of the premier medical institute here.

Observing that there is a need to expand quality institutions, the minister said a serious review is required to develop medical colleges near existing institutions by relaxing municipal and medical council laws.

“We need more medical colleges. Both public and private sector education has expanded. But medical colleges are still inadequate. A review of the policy is required as far as increasing the number of medical schools is concerned,” he said.

He noted that India is capable of producing “huge” human talent as one out of every seven patients in the US is treated by a doctor of Indian origin while a large part of British healthcare is managed by Indian doctors.

“We need to expand quality institutions. The restraints on the great hospitals – unavailability of contiguous land, inability to have medical colleges next to it – needs a serious review.

“We have ready-made hospitals of excellence which have worked for decades and there is no reason why, by relaxing municipal laws and medical council regulations, we are not able to encourage the expansion of a few hundred more medical colleges in India,” he said. Noting the challenge vis-a-vis the policy on organ donation, the Finance Minister said, “We must look at the standard best practices in the world and try to see how some of them work in the Indian context without commercializing the whole activity.”

Referring to AIIMS completing 60 years, he said that while, conventionally, to reach that age was worrisome and in government one retires at 60, he was “delighted” that nothing of the sort had happened to the premier institute.

“In some states of North India, the word ‘sathiya’ (senile) drew its origin from 60 because when you are 60 other things start happening to you. I am delighted that it has not happened to institution,” he said.

The Finance Minister said that in situations of dire need, people in the country look to AIIMS for their healthcare needs and the institute has an “onerous” responsibility to be the best and excel in the face of challenges to cater to them.

“People all over the country, particularly patients who are in dire need, look to AIIMS. AIIMS is somehow a great healer for them and they get a sense of satisfaction that the last and final opinion about their well-being and possibility of improvement comes from it,” he said.

Noting that people turn to God only for faith, Jaitley said that whenever he is in need, he turns to AIIMS first.

“AIIMS has developed not only the competence but also the credibility of faith which is extremely necessary. And to preserve an institution like this and to allow it to grow is no mean task,” he said, adding that despite lucrative and tempting offers, the missionary zeal of service and research has kept many glued to this institution.

He said that AIIMS did not ever aspire to become an elite institution in terms of volumes.

“While keeping the reality of footfall alive, I doubt there is a hospital in India which has the kind of footfall that AIIMS has and to still continue to achieve excellence is no mean task.

“It became an institution for the common man and, at the same time, it was not an elite institution made only for some.

It was always available for millions of people and yet to achieve excellence in the midst of that crowd was one of the biggest challenges that this institutions has faced,” he said.

Jaitley also said that AIIMS is a nursery of talent as a large number of private healthcare institutions in India are presently manned by the alumni of the premier institute.

“You are a great nursery of medical talent. Therefore, this institute has to expand,” he said.

He said that he has been in touch with the director and the health minister and they have been discussing a vision to have residential facilities shifted somewhere else and use the campus for healthcare facilities only.

“The trauma centre, the other campus which you wish to develop at Masjid Moth, the Jajjar campus which is now developing, are very important institutions. I am one of those who believe that ingratitude is a political sin.

“I remember when I was a few months ago here as a patient, the director and me were discussing this. That is when the vision of expansion came up. There are proposals which are being discussed in the health ministry and department of expenditure. I can assure you that within the constraints of budgetary allocations, we will certainly do the utmost that we can in order to support the expansion,” he said.

He termed growth of good private healthcare institutions in India a positive development and said that, in the absence of adequate insurance back-up and given the costs involved; only a limited section of the population can avail such treatment.

“Therefore, an institution of this kind (AIIMS) in the public healthcare system needs to be encouraged and nourished.

That is why, despite the initial difficulty of availability of adequate faculty, there is this whole idea of having such institutions come up in other parts of the country.

“It is a challenging job, but one which has no option or alternative. Expanding the existing resource that we have in Delhi is a great idea,” he said.-PTI

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