Medical colleges fear AIIMS poaching

Small pool of doctors to choose from

By Sanjay Mandal in Calcutta
  • Published 11.08.18
The 150-acre plot in Kalyani where the All India Institute of Medical Sciences is coming up. Picture by Ranjit Sarkar

Calcutta: The Union health ministry's hiring target for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Kalyani has fuelled speculation that the only way it can find enough experienced doctors to run the super speciality departments is by poaching from Bengal's medical colleges.

A ministry official said from Delhi on Friday that the institute would require about 500 senior doctors, including faculty for super speciality departments, and not less than 1,000 junior doctors to be fully functional.

"The AIIMS network in Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh has been making up for the shortage of faculty by taking doctors from the medical colleges in those states. The same model can be implemented in Kalyani if it faces a resource problem," he said.

In Bengal, state-run health care is already severely short of doctors, especially in the districts. None of the super speciality hospitals built by the government has yet been able to function properly for want of doctors.

The outpatient departments will be the first to open at AIIMS Kalyani in 2020, according to the ministry official. The wards will start functioning in phases from around 18 months later.

"We expect to make all units, including the super speciality departments like gastroenterology, cardiology and neurosurgery, fully operational five years after the OPDs start," the official said.

The Rs 1,754-crore project, commissioned in 2016, includes a medical college with 100 seats. The plan is to start the college with 50 seats within two years of the OPDs opening. The intake of students will be increased in phases.

The health department is bracing for an exodus from state-run medical colleges to AIIMS Kalyani, mainly because of better remuneration. Central government pay scales are between double to three times of what state government doctors get.

"This means the state government will further struggle to fill the vacant posts at its 42 super speciality hospitals," a senior official said.

The number of sanctioned posts for the new super speciality hospitals is 10,440, of which only 6,600 have been filled.

Metro had reported on July 31 about MR Bangur Super Speciality Hospital in Tollygunge having more security guards to patrol its desolate corridors than doctors to treat patients. The emergency ward of the hospital, which opened in February 2017, requires 15 specialists in various disciplines and 25 resident medical officers.

"Anyone would like to work for AIIMS, more so because Kalyani is close to Calcutta," said a doctor at SSKM Hospital.

Besides being barely 60km from the city, AIIMS Kalyani will provide accommodation for doctors on its 150-acre campus.

An official at Swasthya Bhavan, the headquarters of the health department, said no doctor working in a state-run hospital in Bengal could join AIIMS without a no-objection certificate from the government. "We won't issue a no-objection certificate if there is an acute shortage of specialists in that discipline in any of our hospitals," he said.

Recruitment of doctors to any AIIMS department is done through advertisements and any medical practitioner fulfilling the stipulated criteria can apply, irrespective of where the person is employed.

Some senior doctors in state-run medical colleges are open to taking voluntary retirement for better pay and professional opportunities at AIIMS Kalyani.