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Lash & push for AIIMS director

New Delhi, June 16: Senior faculty members at AIIMS today wrote a letter to the Prime Minister complaining against director P. Venugopal, whom they described as “autocratic”, and blaming him for the hospital’s deterioration.

Resident doctors who have been protesting against OBC quotas and count Venugopal as a supporter are framing another memorandum, which they plan to give Manmohan Singh tomorrow, demanding the resignation of health minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

Venugopal and Ramadoss are involved in a public spat ' after the director threatened to resign yesterday, the minister told him he was welcome to do so.

The faculty members said India’s premier teaching hospital had been deteriorating since Venugopal was appointed director in 2003. They blamed him for “total absence of transparency and accountability in administration”, and wrote that the director was apathetic towards the needs of common people.

“He has been very unpopular from the time of his appointment,” said Dr H. Verma, a senior pathologist, and one of those who signed the letter.

Resident doctors and faculty members who had gone with Venugopal to meet the Prime Minister about 10 days ago to seek a hundred per cent increase in seats were labelled as his “coterie” in the letter.

The doctors alleged that the Rs 120-crore trauma centre at AIIMS has been unused for the past three years although it is ready. According to them, 30 MDs and 60 senior residents hired specifically for the trauma centre were made to work in other departments.

“The taxpayer is, in a way, being fooled,” a senior faculty member said. “Most of the faculty would be very happy if Venugopal left AIIMS.”

On the other hand, anti-quota doctors who used the AIIMS lawns as their protest ground are demanding Ramadoss’s resignation “at all costs”. “If Dr Venugopal is pressurised to resign, so will all the 1,500-odd resident doctors,” said Dr Sudipto Mazumdar of the AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Association. A list of signatures of resident doctors who will resign if Venugopal does will be attached to the memorandum.

Venugopal refused to comment but close aide Dr V.K. Khaitan accused Ramadoss of “changing his statements every day”. “The minister said in March that even retired doctors should be employed to prevent a shortage of staff, and now he says the director himself is welcome to leave,” he said.

The BJP, whose government had appointed Venugopal, today jumped to his support, calling him “one of the greatest doctors of India”.

“This public humiliation is completely unwarranted. The government should not interfere in the functioning of AIIMS,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The resident doctors also plan to submit a letter to the health ministry asking it to revoke its decision to not pay the doctors for the days they were on strike last month.

Health secretary P.K. Hota wrote to cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi yesterday seeking confirmation that the decision was in line with government policy, suggesting the ministry was feeling the heat.

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