AIIMS-like hospitals still a far cry in six states

February 22nd, 2008 - 11:45 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) Five years after it was first proposed and two years after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cleared it, a Rs.20 billion project to construct six super-specialty hospitals on the lines of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi is yet to take off. Aimed at correcting the regional imbalance in the availability of affordable and reliable healthcare services, the project envisages setting up AIIMS prototypes in Patna (Bihar), Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Bhubaneswar (Orissa), Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and Rishikesh (Uttarakhand).

It was first proposed in 2003 by the then Bharatiya Janata Party government and cleared in 2006 by Manmohan Singh. The period for implementation was three years.

However, these are unlikely to happen anytime soon. So far only the six state governments have provided land and boundary walls have been constructed around the sites.

“It’s only this year that actual work has started. The project seems to be jinxed as everything has got delayed,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.

In the financial year 2007-08, the government released Rs.900 million for the project. In the next financial year, however, it is being hoped that work will accelerate and Rs.10 billion is slated to be released.

The hurdles have been many. To begin with, a consultant could not be appointed on time as the ministry couldn’t find one company to take the charge of the entire project. The ministry has now hired three consultants for the job.

Then, the architectural consultant chosen for the task of preparing a concept design was rejected due to the high prices being quoted and the process had to begin all over again.

Global bids were invited for the task. While the ministry cleared the concept plans for Bhopal, Rishikesh and Jodhpur in January, Patna, Raipur and Bhubaneswar are yet to even reach that stage.

As the delay continued, the health ministry decided to separate the construction of housing from the building of the hospital and medical college. The six institutions are being built under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna (PMSSY).

“The project of such an enormous size, which has to be completed across the country, would definitely take some time to be properly conceptualised and implemented,” B.K. Prasad, joint secretary in the health ministry, told IANS.

He is hoping that civil construction work on the housing and hostels would start in all the states soon and be completed in 2009; this would be followed by work on the hospital and medical college to be completed in 2010-11.

Each hospital would be a 960-bedded one and would provide undergraduate medical education for 100 students per year. Postgraduate and postdoctoral courses would also be offered.

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