The future of the ESI-Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences and Research in Joka hangs in balance after the Mamata Banerjee government rejected the Union labour ministry’s offer to take over the administrative and academic operations as well as maintenance of the teaching hospital.
The ministry has decided to close down 11 Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) medical colleges across the country, including the institute in Joka. The medical college started an MBBS course two years ago with 100 medical seats for each year.
“We have turned down the Union labour ministry’s offer to take over the ESI Medical College in Joka. The ministry had requested us to take over administrative and academic control, including the salaries of teaching and non-teaching employees of the college. The Centre is not willing to give us the ESI Hospital inside the college complex. We have not accepted the proposal,” Moloy De, principal secretary in-charge of the health department, told HT on Sunday.
“We can run the medical college if the ministry provides funds for employees’ salary and construction and maintenance work of the college building. We have also asked it to give us the hospital also. ESIC could not also utilise funds allotted for the college. It has only spent Rs. 300 crore out of the allotted Rs. 600 crore,” he said.
Sources in the ESIC in Bengal felt that the state government should accept the ministry’s proposal at a time when it is running out of doctors. “The existing medical college at Joka will help the state produce at least 100 MBBS doctors every year particularly when Mamata is looking for more medical colleges on the public-private-partnership (PPP) model. Our college is a central government medical institute,” a senior ESIC official said.
The first batch of the Joka institute is scheduled to graduate in 2017. With the ministry’s decision, ESIC will not take any more students for the MBBS course in the Joka college. There has been an acute shortage of about 2,500 doctors in the public healthcare system in Bengal. The crisis will worsen because the state government has decided to set up 40 super speciality hospitals in backward region districts by 2016.
All 200 MBBS students of the Joka college had gheraoed the dean and medical superintendent of the institute a couple of weeks ago in protest against the ministry’s decision.