Outside experts set to head all 14 new AIIMS

AIIMS, PGI-Chandigarh, AIIMS management, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research, indian medical institutes

MOVING AWAY from the AIIMS-Delhi model, where the Union Health Minister heads the highest decision-making body of the institute, the Health Ministry is looking at roping in external professionals or retired faculty from renowned institutes such as AIIMS, PGI-Chandigarh and others to head the 14 new AIIMS being founded across the country. Getting external professionals or technical experts to chair institute bodies of all the new AIIMS was one of the recommendations of the committee set up under former Department of Biotechnology Secretary Dr M K Bhan to look into the governance structure of the new institutes.

At AIIMS-Delhi, the Institute Body, the top decision-making wing in the institute’s hierarchy, comprises the Health Minister as chairman, Health Secretary, HRD Secretary and several other government functionaries, besides external representation such as the vice-chancellor of Delhi University. The governing body, which is lower in the decision-making hierarchy, is also headed by the Health Minister, followed by the standing finance committee headed by the Union Health Secretary.

“The idea is to both free the new institutes of political interference and also look at the logistics side — it is possible for the minister to attend two governing body meetings at AIIMS-Delhi, but to do so for 14 AIIMS is hardly possible,” a Health Ministry official said. “Getting a professional to head the institute body would improve the quality of functioning and bring in technical know-how and expertise that a political person cannot bring.”

The official said that the Bhan committee had recommended bringing in external technical experts at the helm to act as a mentor. “But we are still studying the report. It is possible that this requires changes in the existing AIIMS Act,” the official added. Dr Bhan, a former professor of AIIMS, is playing a similar expert’s role at the Puducherry-based Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), where he chairs the highest decision-making body of the medical institute.

The committee also envisaged an umbrella governing structure for all the other AIIMS, headed by the Health Minister and the Union health secretary among its members. The board will have control over the governance of all 14 AIIMS but not over AIIMS-Delhi or PGI-Chandigarh. The present governance structure is likely to continue at the Delhi institute, the oldest and the most prestigious of AIIMS, sources said.

Among members of the empowered board, as recommended by the committee, are secretaries of the Departments of Health Research, Biotechnology or Science and Technology, as also members from outside AIIMS —- on the lines of the current structure of the AIIMS Institute Body. With the Centre struggling to find suitable candidates for faculty positions in the upcoming AIIMS, the Bhan committee has also suggested increasing the retirement age of director and other faculty members from 65 to 67 years. Meetings of the standing finance committees of each AIIMS could be chaired either by the Union Health Secretary or any other person nominated by him, but not below the rank of Additional Secretary, the panel recommended.