AIIMS in big trouble as doctors continue to leave

AIIMS, the country's top medical institution,continues to suffer a severe staff crunch. The latest to break away is Dr Suneeta Mittal, professor and head of department of obstetrics and gynaecology. In the last year, ten other senior doctors, including the head of neurosciences, have resigned or applied for voluntary retirement. Dr Suneeta Mittal sought voluntary retirement last week, days after informing the director and health minister Azad. She had alleged that one of her colleagues, Dr Deepika Deka was being granted excessive leave. Dr Deka incidentally is the AIIMS director s wife. The institute has denied the charge.

Greener private pastures

A doctor who wished to remain unnamed said that the faculty crisis is set to get worse in the days to come. 44 senior docs are set to retire in the next three years. "In 2012, ten faculty members are due to retire. Eight will retire in 2013, nine in 2014 and 16 the year after that," said a senior official. He said that there were several pressing issues that needed to be addressed, including denial of promotion and the poor pay structure-working environment compared to the private sector. "I have been called twice by a major private hospital. They are promising 10 times the salary offered here and perks. Similar offers have been made to most faculty members and some of them are seriously considering the proposal," said a senior faculty member, who did not wish to be identified. He said private hospitals were not only offering good money but were also interested in branding doctors.

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Backbiting and office politics

Most doctors feel that though the private sector honey trap was always there, but a good work environment and the opportunity to serve people was something that stopped doctors from joining the private hospitals. However, with a severe staff shortage, inhuman working hours and office politics doctors are quitting the institute to find newer pastures.

"I know many doctors who have quit protesting the wrong policies and injustice by the administration . For example, three young faculty members who quit the institute recently were angry over denial of promotion," said Dr Manoj Singh, president of the faculty association of AIIMS. More than 300 posts of assistant professor, 47 posts of professor, nine of additional professor, 16 of associate professor and 13 of nursing lecturers are lying vacant.

Vineet Chawdhry, deputy director (administration), said the process is on for new recruitments. "We have interviewed more than 100 candidates for assistant professor and about 40 of them have joined already," he said, adding that the exodus of senior faculty members will have no bearing on the services provided if enough doctors are hired.

These recent developments will hardly please the health minister who has enough trouble trying to convincemedical students to stay in the country or work in rural areas.

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