Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has set up a three-member committee to look into the functioning of AIIMS and to prescribe a remedy to put the institute back on the track.
The panel will be headed by Dr MS Valiathan, founder-director of the Shree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Kerala, and will have health secretary Prasanna Hota and director-general
of health services RK Srivastava as its members.
The decision to set up the committee was taken on Monday after Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss briefed the prime minister. No AIIMS representative was present at the meeting. AIIMS director P. Venugopal, who is locked in a turf war with Ramadoss, is on leave.
After the meeting, Ramadoss said: “The quality and functioning of AIIMS over the past 3-4 years has not been satisfactory.” He said the PM chose the committee members after consulting him.
“The committee will look into issues plaguing the institute, such as senior doctors leaving for private sector and research work lagging behind,” Ramadoss said.
"The committee will recommend ways to strengthen the institute so that it can function as a super-specialty referral hospital -- the purpose for which it was conceptualised," he said.
Ramadoss said Venugopal's claim that the Health Ministry was challenging the autonomy of AIIMS was baseless. "The administrative changes are an internal matter and have nothing to do with the committee. Dr Venugopal is on leave and he'll be informed of the developments when he returns," he said. "The committee may ask him for an explanation on the administrative mismanagement. Whatever action needed will be recommended by the committee."
The committee is the latest in a series of panels the government has constituted to look into the affairs of AIIMS. All along, the committees suggested changes but also underlined the need for autonomy.
The Public Accounts Committee report (2004-05) tabled in the Lok Sabha last year had criticised AIIMS for degenerating into yet another "large hospital without adequate emphasis on teaching and research", instead of becoming a centre for excellence in medical research and teaching. It had also noted that "excessive government control and political influence" can "erode the efficiency and growth capacity of an institute" and recommended that an autonomous body should be set up to preserve its autonomy.
Three months ago, another central committee headed by former health secretary Javed A. Chowdhury recommended increasing the retirement age of faculty to 65, giving monetary compensation for research work, and raising the non-practising allowance from the current 25 per cent to 30 per cent. "The Javed Chowdhury committee was set up to examine why doctors were leaving the CGHS and government hospitals such as AIIMS at an alarming rate. About 90 per cent of its recommendations will be implemented. The new committee will look specifically at AIIMS functioning over the past three years,” said Ramadoss.