Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Medical College Row: When Cure Becomes Disease!

Medical College Row:
When Cure Becomes Disease!

By Zubair Ahmed

Santa and Banta bid to build a medical college. Both of them started constructing it from opposite directions. When a man asked, whether both the building will meet in the centre, Santa lightly said, “If it meets you will have one great Medical College, and if it doesn’t you will be lucky to have two medical colleges!”

Jokes apart, Bishnu Pada Ray, Member of Parliament is now on a mission mode to garner public opinion using various forums to press upon his idea of having a PG Medical Programme in the Islands instead of a MBBS College as proposed by the Administration and vigorously followed up by the Lieutenant Governor.

Keeping in mind, the temperament of Bishnu Pada Ray, it was quite obvious and natural that fissures would start to appear in the relations between him and the Administrator in due course. But, it has dawned too early and quite openly.

The Medical College is not a new idea. It was there for the last five years. Land was allotted in 2012. A major poll plank during last elections appearing in the promises of all candidates, Bishnu was all praises for the initiative and had put it as an achievement in his manifesto too. So, what went wrong suddenly that he had to take a major shift from his earlier position?

No one in the Islands would have opposed setting up of an institution of higher studies, especially a medical college per se. The Islanders had earlier welcomed an engineering college started in the polytechnic campus. They had welcomed ANCOL in a school campus too. It’s truly a positive step that the Islands will have a medical college along with an engineering college.

Then why is there a section who is murmuring against the proposed medical college?

It was Lt Governor A K Singh, who for the first time offered the medical college as a panacea for shortage of specialists in the Islands, a quite difficult concept to digest. We did not start an engineering college, to overcome shortage of engineers in the Islands. An educational institution in the Islands is always good for the local population to pursue higher education without moving out to mainland. It’s a sign of development too.

But, Medical College wasn’t the solution to overcome the scarcity of specialists in the Islands. That could have been solved using other options. How many of us ever bother about the exodus of good doctors from GB Pant Hospital? We have lost good pediatric surgeons, ophthalmologists, gynecologists and many others. Was it just the lure to earn more outside which made them quit? Obviously, the administration needs to rethink about the suffocating administrative setup that governs our healthcare system.

Why doesn’t the Administration think about recruiting MBBS doctors and sending them for specialization from reputed institutions in the mainland? We have examples of serving doctors upgrading themselves and coming back and serving at GB Pant Hospital. How many specialists would we need? It’s a miniscule number.

Both the options – a UG programme, as recommended by the Administration and a PG programme, as wished by the Member of Parliament seems to be not the solution they are looking for.

No doubt, realization of the dream called the Medical College would add a feather on the cap of the Administrator. And, his overwhelming enthusiasm to achieve the target had ushered a new hope among the Islanders. The college would have been a boon for the Islanders in many ways, but it won’t be a solution to the immediate problem at hand.

The idea of PG programme by AIMS as advocated by the MP might be made to look very innocuous, and a sacred service, but reading between the lines exposes many other dimensions. He as a devotee and disciple of Amritanandamayi, had always wanted Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) to play a major role in the healthcare sector in the Islands. And, its too obvious now that with BJP Govt at Centre, and the clout AIMS enjoys in the Ministry, they could pull the strings and get things done.

The presentation by Prem Nair, MD, AIMS was mostly unconvincing. He had referred to the unfeasibility of a MBBS college on the basis of small population. If they are vouching for PG courses in the Islands itself, it has to be made clear whether it would be a regular institution or a temporary one, churning out specialists every two years? If they are offering a solution for the Islands, how many specialists would the Islands need? He had mentioned that the Islands would hardly require 10-12 specialization courses. Is it sustainable in the long run?

Nair tried to convince that they will put all efforts at Ministry to increase the number of MBBS seats allocation for the Islands. In fact, since last three years, the Ministry has been reducing the number of MBBS seats.

It wasn’t difficult to read between the lines. A PG programme on PPP mode would do wonders for anyone, may it be AIMS, Adani or Ambani.

Bishnu Pada Ray is desperately trying to project a larger than life image of him. By going against the Lieutenant Governor, he is sending a clear message that the ego-massage the Administrator does is not going to work, and would continue with his own ways.

As mentioned in an article soon after the 100 days of LG A K Singh, it is quite obvious that the formidable challenge for the Lieutenant Governor in the coming months would be Bishnu Pada Ray, Member of Parliament.

Moreover, BJP is right now in different boats. In quarry issue, the party stand remained divided. And, the conspicuous absence of the party leadership and a major chunk of party workers from the presentation on PG course yesterday once again manifested, how things are going to unfold in near future.

As mentioned earlier, if the priorities of the Administrator and the Member of Parliament are different for the same territory, loads of fireworks can be expected henceforth. Whether, the Islands will have a PG course or a MBBS course is a different matter, but it’s clear that whatever happens will not happen in near future.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

AIMS Suggests Medical PG Courses Instead of MBBS College

AIMS Suggests Medical PG Courses Instead of MBBS College

To overcome the shortage of health care specialists in the Islands, Prem Nair, MD, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi suggested that it would be wise to commence PG Courses instead of going for a MBBS College.

Giving a presentation on the benefits of having PG Courses in the Islands, Prem Nair said that it would be cost-effective and will also help overcome the shortage of specialists. He was speaking to a gathering at the Chinmaya Mission, Port Blair.  

“We have been coming to the Islands for almost a decade now to serve the Islanders. We are honoured for this opportunity provided,” he said.

He observed that some of the health care requirements are not available at G.B. Pant Hospital. The Islands are far away from the mainland and so acute medical care needs should be addressed in the Islands itself, he explained.

“Infectious diseases are not a major concern today. But specialized treatment is required for diseases relating to heart, kidney etc. which are increasing manifold,” he said.

“We have given a presentation to the Administration on the need for specialised health care facilities in the Islands. Our first recommendation to the Administration was to immediately provide Acute Medical Care facilities at the GB Pant itself and to get specialists in 8-10 specialities at least. This can be started immediately,” he said.

“We have also suggested initiating a Post Graduate Medical course in the Islands as second phase towards improving the health care facilities. In this case, the students who come for PG Courses will be able to provide specialised treatment too. This would incur much lesser cost to the exchequer”, Nair said.

“Starting a MBBS programme is a very complicated and costly affair”, the MD of AIMS cleared. On the other hand, for Speciality Programme, mere Rs. 12-14 Crore would be required apart from adding a few equipments. The rest is already available at G.B. Pant Hospital. Moreover, starting a MBBS programme would require at least 300 faculties to join and stay in the Islands for a long time," he said.

“It is our recommendation to plan a PG Programme, which will be able to take care of the immediate medical emergencies.”

As far as MBBS seat for the Islands’ students is concerned, we can work with the Govt. of India to increase the number of seats being allotted presently. “I suggest this because the cost of medical surgical care is very low compared to the cost involved in setting up a medical college. The amount of Rs. 500 Crore for set aside for starting a MBBS Programme can be used as corpus to further improve the health care standards in the Islands,” Nair suggested.

The MD of AIMS also appealed to the administration to look into the suggestion in a different way. “We will not neglect the children of the Islands but will help them by fighting with the Govt. of India to increase the number of seats,” he stressed.

He further opined that the MBBS Course is not feasible for the Islands as the quality will suffer as the population of the Islands is less and is not sufficient to train the doctors efficiently in the long run.  

Addressing the gathering, Bishnu Pada Ray, Member of Parliament added that the project of medical college costing Rs. 500 Crores, was initially to be implemented in PPP mode, as was decided by the Administration.

Questioning the present decision of the Administration to set up Medical College through a society, he asked why the Administration shelved the idea of PPP mode. He also alleged that ANIIDCO and SOVTEC have failed miserably in executing projects like Under Sea Optical Fibre Cable.

Bishnu Takes On ANI Admn for Delaying Projects

Bishnu Takes On ANI Admn for Delaying Projects

Bishnu Pada Ray, Member of Parliament today lambasted the Andaman and Nicobar Administration for derailing and delaying many major projects. He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a presentation by Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi for suggesting the Administration to start Medical PG courses instead of going for a MBBS college in the Islands.

Bishnu said that the undersea cable project, which was the brainchild of previous NDA and UPA governments got entangled in many controversies and now fresh DPR is being prepared. He said that the new cable will directly connect Chennai with Port Blair at a higher cost and will not cover Islands like Kamorta and Campbell Bay. “The new project will take more than four years now,” he said.

Bishnu also said that Andaman Forest Corporation was on the verge of closure due to wrong move of the Administration. He also dealt on the issue of widening of the Andaman Trunk Road, the National Highway connecting Port Blair with Diglipur. He said that the project was put on backburner for more than 10 years. “After my meeting with Mr Nitin Gadkari, we have salvaged the project now,” he said. “When I retrieved the file, I could see that the width was reduced to 5.5 mtrs from 7 mtrs. I convinced the Prime Minister, and now two bridges will also come up and the amount of Rs 1040 crores has been also sanctioned,” Bishnu added.

“Every year, our Islands get Cess charges in petrol and diesel to the tune of Rs 5.5 crores. In the last seven years, an amount of Rs 43 crores is lying with the Administration. The money should have been used by APWD to maintain the road,” Bishnu alleged.

"There were funds for many schemes like drinking water and PMGRY which the Administration could not obtain from the Centre,” he said. On the project for sewerage plant proposed during the tenure of Vivek Rae, Chief Secretary, Bishnu said that the Detailed Project Report was prepared by WAPCOS and submitted to Ministry of Urban Development. He said that the DPR prepared by WAPCOS was erroneous and ultimately the project costing Rs 335 crores was shelved.