Amidst the background of protests around Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University’s fee hike, doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Science have come out to raise their voice against the Centre’s move to increase charges at the healthcare facility.
The Centre’s proposal seeks to review tuition fees for students as well as increase user charges for patients of the hospital. This would include a hike in the cost of the various diagnostic procedures such as scans, X-rays, and blood tests.
“Quality education and healthcare are the building blocks of our nation and we will not allow any person, organization or the government to compromise on them in any aspect,” reads the statement issued by Dr Amarinder Singh Malhi and Dr Abhishek Singh of the AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA).
Some reports say that user charges for diagnostic procedures have not been revised in AIIMS for 25 years, while tuition fee has not been revised for 50 years. According to the Ministry, the intention is to make AIIMS earn a few crores a year. Under this plan, student tuition fee that stands at Rs 6000 annually maybe be revised to Rs 50000.
However, several doctors have spoken out against the Centre’s plans, stating that the move is an attempt to turn AIIMS into an ‘elite institute’ which would prevent a significant number of people from disadvantaged and lower socioeconomic backgrounds from being able to access the healthcare they need.
“Illiterate politicians sees AIIMS a place of revenue generation whereas AIIMS was built to provide teaching & training of quality graduates & giving best treatment irrespective of socioeconomic conditions,” says Dr Harjiit Singh Bhatti, former president of the Resident Doctors Association at AIIMS to TNM.
“Today the government wants to convert AIIMS into elite’s institution & Hospital which is very unfortunate and we will not allow this to happen. Resident doctors, UGs and scientists together have to decided to oppose government’s move to hike fees. AIIMS was built for the poor and it will remain for poor, underprivileged & marginalised sections of society," he said.
Many have pointed out that the current situation at AIIMS strikingly echoed that which is currently unfolding at Delhi’s JNU. Students have been protesting the decision to increase the tuition and hostel fees at the university.
Earlier on Friday, the Union Health Ministry had asked administrators at AIIMS in New Delhi to review user fee structure for patients of the hospital. This structure could then possibly be replicated in all AIIMS facilities throughout the country, in an effort to ensure uniformity of patient and user charges throughout all AIIMS institutes. As per reports, the Central Institute Body (CIB) of the six AIIMS headed by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan will also be reviewing student tuition fees and will also be fixing uniform charges on diagnostic procedures in all the AIIMS campuses.