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Patient rush, digital push and referrals remain PGI director’s Achilles heel

One year at the helm: Jagat Ram says patient stay in emergency has been reduced to less than a month, ways are being explored to cut short wait for medical tests and treatment of critical, poor patients is being prioritised at departments.

punjab Updated: Mar 16, 2018 13:13 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Patient rush,digital push,PGI
PGIMER director Jagat Ram in his office on Thursday. (Anil Dayal/HT)

On March 17, 2017, after taking charge as the director of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Dr Jagat Ram promised about managing the ever increasing rush of patients, ensure decreasing the number of referrals and increasing the number of online appointments.

A year after and none of the promises has been fulfilled.

Dr Jagat Ram has come a long way from working in the fields of Pabyana village in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh as a teenager to becoming the director of PGMIER in his 60s. He has won many accolades in the ophthalmology, which may have helped him in getting selected as the director of the premier institute.

However his selection had surprised many as his name was last in the selection list. Many thought his being Himachali played a lucky charm as the union health minister is also from Himachal Pradesh, but for others it was his hard work and credentials that got him this position.

As he completes one year as director of the country’s premier institute, this correspondent analyses his hits and misses and what lies ahead.

Director’s cut
  • His favourite colour is blue, quite evident from his clothes
  • His father was a small farmer in Pabyana village and he used to help him in the fields to earn a living and fund studies
  • He had almost missed an admission at the PGIMER. Thinking that he has not cleared the entrance examination of PGIMER, he slept under the tree until he was woken up by a senior doctor
  • He had headed the ophthalmology unit at PGI for 26 years, working for Eye Bank Society of India for 24 years
  • Has performed 9,500 surgical procedures in children over 37 years and is a recipient of 24 national and international awards
  • His name appeared last in the list of three candidates shortlisted for the post of director.

The misses

His first priority was to “manage patient load” in the New OPD and emergency. He had said in an interview, “We will increase the number of people taking the online appointment that stands at a mere 10% now. We will make extensive use of digital methods. We will also work to reduce the number of referral patients. PGI staff will train staff of hospitals in neighbouring states.”

But neither the online appointment has been increased, nor have any digital methods been used. Even training of hospital staff from the neighbouring states has been a failure.Dr Ram said, “I might not have been successful in reducing the rush of patients, but have reduced the stay of patients in emergency to less than a month.”

When asked what he has done to manage the patient rush, he said, “Patient rush is increasing because we are providing better services. We cannot control the rush but can certainly provide better infrastructure.”

“We have approached senior health officers from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and have told them that PGIMER is ready to train their doctors. The sole purpose is to strengthen their health centres, but there is a very lukewarm response from them,” he said.

He added, “We have already had a word with governor of Punjab and ministry of health and family welfare, so that we can get that 50-acre land in Sarangpur. It will be used to set up Out Patient Department, which will be more spacious and other buildings.”

Talking about long waiting list for tests, he said, “I agree there is a long significant delay, at times 3 months long wait for MRI, and a patient might die waiting. But, the departments have been asked to take critical and poor patients on priority.”

Must read | HT Spotlight: One doctor for 30 patients, it’s a pressure cooker situation in PGIMER emergency

The hits

PGIMER received 44 cadaver donations and performed 107 transplants. This is highest, till date, in a government hospital.

In 2017, PGIMER performed highest number of robotic surgeries, that was over 1,000

OPD of satellite centre, Sangrur, was complete but the construction work of 300 bed hospital has started under his term. It will get ready by September-October 2018.

Rs 1,475 crore was approved for three big projects: Advanced Mother and Child Centre, Advanced Neurosciences Centre and Satelite Centre in Una.“Currently the focus is on Neurosciences centre and Mother and Child Care. The work has been allotted and construction will start next month. The deadline for the projects is 39 months,” he said.

First lung transplant was performed. However the patient could not survive.

He managed to avoid strikes

“I will take along all the employees of PGI whether they are faculty, residents, nurses and technicians,” the director had said a year ago. Known for his polite and humble nature, he has been successful in avoiding strikes. On several occasions, whenever a union announces strike, he somehow manages to win their confidence.

Projects which await completion

250 bed hospital: Seven years after the work was approved, the project is nowhere near completion. “This project was on standstill for a year, but its work has been started once I took over as director. It will get completed by October 2018,” he said.

PGI Pharmacy: The work on the pharmacy is going on for at least two years. A group of faculty had taken a tour of several hospitals as well. But till date, it is not ready. “The main building is ready, but it will take at least 9 more months to get the ware house ready,” he said.

Future projects aim to cut patients, kin waiting time

On token system, Amitabh Avasthi, deputy director, PGIMER, said, “We have started token system at three departments and it is quite successful, and we are planning to extend it to the entire New OPD. For this, engineering department has made a proposal and it will be approved via priority committee.”

Under token system, a patient will be given a number and digital boards will be placed outside the doctor’s room. A patient will have a rough idea about when his turn will come.

Setting up kiosks: To make registration process at the PGIMER an easy task for patients, several kiosks will be placed in the building and there will be one staff member employed. Instead of reaching PGIMER at 5am and standing in registration queues for hours, people can come on time and get registration cards made at different kiosks.

Supervision of engineering work: To ensure projects are completed on time, the administration is supervising the engineering work. Monthly meetings are held to supervise major and minor projects.

One year at the helm: The director says he might not have been successful in reducing patient rush, but stay of patients in emergency has been reduced to less than a month

First Published: Mar 16, 2018 13:12 IST