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.