Extended retirement age could cause exodus at AIIMS

June 12th, 2008 - 11:34 am ICT by IANS  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) The already overburdened All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is likely to face a major exodus in the near future. And this time it’s not internal conflict but a cabinet decision that is hurting the institute. Senior faculty members at AIIMS say the cabinet decision to extend the retiring age of teaching doctors to 65 from 62 would hamper the growth prospects of many professors awaiting promotion.

“We are not opposing the extension in retirement age that much but there are a number of holes in the government directive that will stall the growth of professors and affect their seniority level,” said a senior faculty member at AIIMS.

“While increasing the retirement age, the cabinet must make it clear that these senior people are not holding any administrative post or remaining as head of the department,” the doctor said, not wanting to be named.

A group of faculty members are writing to the cabinet later this week, expressing their reservation about the issue.

“If they do not listen, then many will leave AIIMS for private hospitals. At least there will be more money and less political interference,” said another faculty association member.

“I have a couple of standing offers,” he said.

Last week, the cabinet extended the retirement age of teaching doctors at central government-run medical colleges to 65 from 62 .

“It’s an issue and faculty members at AIIMS believe there should be a rotating head of the department policy,” said K.K. Handa, vice president of the AIIMS faculty association.

AIIMS is believed to be the best government medical college and research centre in the country and treats over 8,000 patients every day. Currently the institute has nearly 470 senior faculty members, a shortage of nearly 75 senior doctors. Similarly, there is a shortage of around 300 junior doctors, who don’t teach but play a major role in patient care and treatment.

And here an exodus will cripple the health services at AIIMS, which was last year termed by an international magazine as an “oasis of the poor”. In the last few years nearly 10 senior doctors have left AIIMS for greener pastures.

“As such there is a shortage of doctors and the government is not bothered about it. And now, they will allow nearly 30 doctors not to retire over the next three years,” another doctor who has been working at AIIMS for over 20 years told IANS.

“Since there is going to be stagnation in seniority and affect the recruitment of new professors, the government must streamline the decision and stop these senior members from holding any administrative posts.

“Why have I left lucrative offers in the US and joined AIIMS? I don’t want my promotion to face stagnation. I know my job and can any time join private tertiary care hospitals,” he added.

AIIMS doctors say the government must compensate this stagnation “with a better salary hike and other allowances and fill up the vacant posts at both junior and senior levels”.

They say the cabinet decision would affect nearly 5,000 faculties of top medical colleges of India, including the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, Bangalore.

AIIMS has been hogging the headlines for a few years - first for protests by its students against the 27 percent quota for other backward classes in central government-run educational institutions and then due to a faceoff between its director P. Venugopal and Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

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