The AIIMS Resident Doctors Association has strongly opposed a Centre's proposal to review the tuition fees for the students of the prestigious medical college and the user charges for various diagnostic procedures like blood tests, X-rays and OPD charges for its patients.
AIIMS RDA opposed the proposal, saying it strongly supports quality and affordable education for all sections of the society.
The proposal has been mooted close on the heels of a drastic hike in the hostel charges and other fees for the JNU students.
"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," said AIIMS RDA in a statement.
"We need educated and skilled citizens to fulfil our long-cherished dream of becoming a developed nation. This dream can be fulfilled only if both the central and state governments make quality education affordable and healthcare accessible to all citizens," it added.
AIIMS RDA president, Dr Amarinder Malhi, said, "We, the resident doctors, are against the memorandum issuedby the administration. We are against any kind of increase in the tuition fees of students and user charges for patients in all medical institutes."
"We request all policy makers to think logically and take concrete steps in this direction so that our nation can fare far better than where it stands at present in the global healthcare access and quality (HAQ) index as well as the global quality Education Index (EI)," Dr Malhi added.
The Union Health Ministry had on Friday asked AIIMS, New Delhi, to review the user fees for its patients and prepare a model rate-chart which can be replicated in all six such premier institutes across the country so as to bring uniformity in their user charges.
According to a senior health ministry official, the Central Institute Body (CIB) of the six AIIMS, including the one in Delhi, headed by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has decided to review the tuition fees of students and also fix an uniform user charge on various diagnostic procedures like blood tests and X-rays.
On the Union Finance Ministry direction, the Union Health Ministry had earlier repeatedly asked the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to review and revise its user charges.
Citing Rule 47 of the General Financial Rules, 2017, the memorandum said that "the user charge is an important component of the non-tax revenues of the institute and each ministry/department should undertake an exercise to identify the user fees levied by it and publish the same on its website".
While fixing the rates of user charges, the ministries/departments must ensure that the user fees recover the current cost of providing services with reasonable return on capital investment, it stated.
Any deviation from these principles shall be specifically recorded with reasons justifying the setting of user charges lower than the cost recovery norms, if any, the memorandum added.
"The rates of user charges should be linked with appropriate price indices and reviewed at least every three years. In order to enable ease of revision of user charges, the rate of user fees shall be fixed, wherever possible, through rules or executive orders and not through a statue," the memorandum said.
A government official said the AIIMS demands an additional allocation amounting to over Rs 300 crore in non-plan expenditures, including for consumable, maintenance and salaries, among others, which are of recurring nature.
There are huge deviations between the budget estimates and revised estimates, he said.
An internal committee, constituted in 2017 to review the user charges at the hospital, had recommended against charging money for tests and procedures which cost less than Rs 500 at the institute.
It had then suggested that private ward charges at the AIIMS should be increased to make up for the loss as their rates are less than semi-private wards in corporate hospitals that can be accessed by people under Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS).
AIIMS spends over Rs 1.8 crore on producing one doctor
According to New Indian Express, AIIMS provides the least expensive medical education in the country at Rs 6,000 per year. This could be raised up to Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 per year for an MBBS degree, as per officials in the human resources development (HRD) ministry.
The expenditure to train an MBBS doctor is over Rs 1.8 crore, according to department of hospital administration analysis.
The Union government allocates Rs 3,500 crore for AIIMS Delhi, while the other 14 AIIMS get around Rs 300-500 crore.
“We are asking these institutes to at least generate Rs 70-75 crore every year by charging for MBBS programmes and patients’ services,” a senior ministry official said. Currently, AIIMS Delhi generates only Rs 2-3 crore a year.
User charges at AIIMS unchanged since 1996
The user charges for diagnostic procedures and equipment have become very expensive, since they have not been revised for over 20 years, a health ministry official told news agency ANI.
The health ministry official also stated that tuition fees have not been revised for more than 50 years.