Doctors, faculty members, and other staff at AIIMS have decided to continue with their strike for another 24 hours.
The governments order on relieving the Director of AIIMS Dr.P Venugopal has raised a feeling of disappointment within the faculty, doctors, and other staff members of the premier institute and also from various leading hospitals from across the state and nation. Meanwhile one representative each from the Faculty Association, Resident Doctor Association, Students Union, and Society for Young Scientists have begun an indefinite hunger strike at the institute.
It was reported that the medical services have been disrupted in other hospitals in Delhi too as institutes like, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), Maulana Azad Medical College, and Lady Hardinge Medical College joined the agitation. The faculty at AIIMS are receiving letters of support from hospitals across India. The doctors in AIIMS are planning to review the situation daily.
The Vice-President of the Faculty Association Dr Binod Khaitan said, "We will soon draw a plan so that the patients do not suffer. While indoor patients continue to get treatment, we will have a core group meeting tomorrow and decide on setting up parallel OPD's. We may start them from Saturday." The agitators have named their protests as 'Save the AIIMS'. It was sadly reported that patients continued to suffer for a second day in a row with the services at AIIMS being paralysed. Angry relatives of some patients tried to break down the main emergency door.
The agitators and supporting doctors from all over the country feel that there is too much of interference by politicians and bureaucrats, which could set off the collapse of many time-honoured centres of excellence. A senior faculty member at SGPGIMS said, "The centres of excellence like AIIMS, all the PGIs, IIMs, IITs should be insulated from political and bureaucratic interference. They should be protected from any scope of interference into their autonomy from politicians and bureaucrats. And government should understand that such highly skilled institutes could not be developed easily. Huge money goes into it. If by interference, degeneration sets in at such a place, then recovery would be difficult."
Another senior consultant said, "It is not the loss of Dr Venugopal. He will continue to be a doctor of repute. Nothing will happen to the minister either. He may become a bigger minister and bigger politician. But what will happen to the institute. Already a kind of exodus of doctors to private practice or abroad has started happening from such institutes. So ultimately it is the institutes that will suffer."
The situation that has arisen is such a sad outcome of interference, which should remind us of 50 years back when the then health minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, rose to move the 'All-India Institute of Medical Sciences Bill', She addressed the parliament on her dream venture stating, "An institute of this nature in India which would enable our young men and women to have their own post-graduate education in their own country, in their background with the necessary experience that we would all like to have of work in the villages and the impetus we would like to give to them to do research in the various spheres of medical education.'' It is heartening to see that her vision also envisaged what could happen in the future as she also then stated, ''Subject to such minimum control as the Government of India may exercise through its rule-making powers, the Institute will enjoy a large measure of autonomy in order that it may fulfil the objectives—I humbly claim they are very fine objectives—The future of the Institute will lie ultimately in the hands of the Director, the Professors and the other members of the teaching staff and students..."