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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

AIIMS may hike patient, student fees

The move comes at a time when students at another premier Indian university, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), have been on protest over a decision to increase hostel fees.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2019 02:22 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
File photo of AIIMS Delhi.
File photo of AIIMS Delhi. (Mohd Zakir/HT Photo)
         

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has begun a process to review the fee it charges from patients as well as students, a process that could make treatments and studying in one of India’s finest medical institutions more expensive.

The move comes at a time when students at another premier Indian university, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), have been on protest over a decision to increase hostel fees.

Each day, around 13,000 patients visit the AIIMS out-patient clinics and at least 2,000 are admitted for treatment in the network of six hospitals, the most prominent of which is in Delhi.

“In pursuance of the directions of the Government of India (Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare), AIIMS Delhi is required to review all fees and user charges in the institute,” said an office memorandum from the financial advisor.

The memorandum, accessed by HT, was issued after the Central Institute Body of six AIIMS, including AIIMS Delhi, decided to review the tuition fee of students and make user charges for patients uniform across all AIIMS.

If approved, patients will have to pay more that the current OPD charges of ₹10, admission charges of ₹25, and daily cost of admission of ₹35.

The fee for students may also increase from the total tuition of ₹7,640 for the 5.5-year MBBS course.

A costing analysis showed it takes ₹1.84 crore to train one MBBS doctor at AIIMS, according to a department of hospital administration analysis.

There are 100 MBBS seats for Indians and seven for foreign nationals at AIIMS Delhi, which is ranked first among medical institutes by the National Institutional Ranking Framework of the human resource development ministry.

“The matter had been discussed in previous meetings of the institute body and it was thought that the current fees are very low and there was a need for revision. Most of the students coming to AIIMS would be able to afford a nominal increase in the fee. The same goes for the user charges, which haven’t been revised in years. In both cases, if there is someone below the poverty line, then the appropriate exemptions will be made,” said a senior official from the health ministry on condition of anonymity.

Another member of the central institute body said it had been decided to increase the fees nominally.

Experts were divided over the proposal. “The tuition fee at AIIMS is very nominal and increasing it by a small amount will not make much of a difference to the hospital, but it may keep some meritorious students out. However, it has remained stagnant for years and there is a need to revise it,” said Dr Shakti Gupta, former head, hospital administration, AIIMS.

Students indicated they will oppose the move. “The government is making education inaccessible to the poor people. We were supporting students from JNU when we came to know about the circular about fee revision at AIIMS. We are expecting that there will be an increase but we haven’t received any official confirmation from the administration,” said Mukul Kumar, president of the AIIMS students union.

Though the memorandum does not mention any terms or conditions for the increase in the student tuition, for the issue of user charges, it states that “while fixing the rates of user charges, the ministries/departments must ensure that the user charges recover the current cost of providing services with reasonable return on capital investment.”

If departments want the charges lowered, they have to justify it.

The memorandum also states user fees – the fee paid by patients -- be revised every three years. “For BPL patients and other poor patients there are several funds and schemes to ensure they can afford treatment. Any increase would not hit the poor,” the health ministry official quoted above said.

The move comes even as a proposal had been made by AIIMS Delhi to remove user fee for OPD visits and routine tests costing up to ₹500 in 2017. The proposal has been pending with the health ministry.