AIIMS Patna struggles to reach finish line: 5 years after launch, premier healthcare facility isn't fully operational

In January this year, Madhav Rai and Dhanmanti Devi went through every parent’s worst nightmare: amid heavy fog, their son had been involved in a road accident near their village in Bihar’s Vaishali district. He sustained serious injuries in the mishap. When Madhav and Dhanmanti rushed their son — who was battling for his life — to AIIMS Patna, there was another shock in store: the much-hyped facility had no emergency and trauma (care) services. Madhav and Dhanmanti were advised to take their son to another hospital for treatment.

Madhav, a marginal farmer, recalls: “When we reached AIIMS Patna in an ambulance, first, the security guard at the main gate told us that treatment for our son would not be possible here. We insisted on going inside. Then, officials at the OPD told us that there are no facilities to take care of seriously injured patients like our son and we (would) have to move him to another hospital in Patna for treatment.” What Madhav couldn’t have guessed was that AIIMS Patna was running without a basic facility like emergency and trauma services.

The entrance to AIIMS Patna. All photographs taken by the author

The entrance to AIIMS Patna. All photographs taken by the author

Madhav and Dhanmanti finally admitted their son to the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Their story is one repeated by dozens of other people who have previously brought injured patients to AIIMS Patna for treatment. Five years after it started, AIIMS Patna has no functional blood banking service, not all its operation theatres are functional and there are not enough specialist doctors. Patients, even those who come to the OPD, cannot avail proper treatment as a consequence.

“Lack of emergency and trauma services, as well as non-functional blood banking services are a major drawback. It means we cannot treat patients who are in a serious condition here. All this is due to shortage of specialist manpower, equipment and proper infrastructure,” said an official from AIIMS Patna on condition of anonymity. The official admitted that patients in a critical condition have to be turned away because there aren’t adequate facilities for their treatment.

“We politely advise the relatives of patients in a serious condition to not waste their time here and take the ambulance to PMCH or Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Science — another government-run hospital here — or even any private hospital because a delay will prove costly and there is no emergency and trauma centre here at AIIMS Patna,” said one security guard posted on the premises.

The scene outside AIIMS Patna's OPD centre

The scene outside AIIMS Patna's OPD

When it was launched, AIIMS Patna was hyped as a ‘hub for healthcare and a destination for critical patients in Bihar’. However, its current facilities only encompass treatment for routine cases. A doctor who was among the first to join the staff at AIIMS Patna four years ago, told us: “There are no facilities for heart, kidney-related conditions and other major operations. Moreover, there are only four functional operation theatres so far, against the planned 28.”

Similarly, against 304 sanctioned faculty posts, there are at present only around 50 teachers (including doctors). The hospital currently has a bed count of 196 for in-patient admissions — against a potential capacity of 1,000 beds. On the other end of the spectrum, post-mortems have so far not been conducted at AIIMS Patna due to non-availability of a mortuary. A senior official, however, told us the mortuary building is finally ready and “will be functional soon”.

Unlike other hospitals, you won’t hear the wail of an ambulance siren here. What would be the point, since there’s no emergency and trauma centre? In place of ambulances, trucks loaded with sand, bricks, iron rods and other construction material move around the premises. Sounds of heavy vehicles are ubiquitous near the administrative building, OPD and at other places. Dozens of labourers and skilled workers have been keeping busy at five different sites on the campus — all signs of the extensive construction underway at AIIMS Patna.

“We have completed nearly 85 percent of the construction and the pending work will be finished over March-June,” AIIMS Patna director Dr Prabhat Kumar Singh told Firstpost.

He further added that the institution’s other issues would be resolved soon as well.

People walk in and out of the hospital

Patients walk in and out of the hospital

First among these is the blood banking service, for which AIIMS Patna has finally received a provisional licence. The service should be fully operational by March, Dr Singh said. He admitted that the central licensing authority, under the Ministry of Health, had previously withheld the licence for AIIMS Patna to operate a blood bank due to infrastructure deficiencies.

Once the blood banking service is in place, the emergency and trauma centre will also be started by May-June 2018. The 28 operation theatres, recruitment of over 100 faculty members and specialists, Dr Singh hopes to accomplish on a similar timeline. “I am hopeful that AIIMS Patna will be fully operational by mid-2018,” he said.

Dr Singh said that when he joined AIIMS Patna in 2017, the main challenges before him were to complete the construction work, purchase necessary equipment and recruit the requisite manpower. Now, he anticipates a formal inauguration for AIIMS Patna once these services are in place. The initial inauguration date had been planned for 2012.

It isn’t all bad news for AIIMS Patna. Patients who had been cared for at its OPD said the doctors and the facilities here are both above-par. “We are very satisfied with facility and treatment as also the behaviour of the staff and doctors — it’s unlike other government-run hospitals,” said Jai Ram Mahto of Gopalganj district, who had brought his seven-year-old son to the hospital after he complained of a stomach ache.

People visiting medical stores in the vicinity

People visiting medical stores in the vicinity

Two MBBS students who have been posted at AIIMS Patna, also praised the high quality teaching and other facilities. “We have no problem, there is no difficulty. Of course, the hospital facilities should be upgraded and patients should be provided with proper health care,” they added.

In 2017, Ashwini Kumar Choubey — the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare — claimed to have asked AIIMS Delhi to redirect patients from Bihar to AIIMS Patna, in order to prevent overcrowding in the former. “We have this peculiar habit of visiting AIIMS in Delhi for everything. The people of Bihar tend to go there even for a small disease. This has put pressure there and I have directed the doctors to send such patients back to the state,” Choubey said.

Those who own medical shops outside AIIMS Patna, however, said Choubey’s statement is ironic — given the unfinished state of AIIMS Patna.

With low patient footfall, business at these medical shops — of which there are about 30 — hasn’t picked up as anticipated. “We have been waiting for three-and-a-half years, hoping things will change and greater number of patients will visit AIIMS Patna,” said Mahesh Kumar, one of the owners. “But numbers have decreased, if anything, in the last one year. If there are fewer patients, our business too will be affected.”

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 20:24:50 IST

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