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Missed a meal because you were busy tending to a patient? If you’re a resident doctor at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Bhubaneswar, you’re better off finishing that last packet of biscuits instead of expecting dinner post 10 pm. Or so the AIIMS Bhubaneswar admin told its doctors when they demanded setting up of a canteen that would serve hot meals round the clock. 

“Doctors have odd-hour duties, and it may not be possible to make it to dinner on time. The institute has been fully functional for five years, yet such a round-the-clock facility is absent on the campus. Numerous appeals made to this effect have fallen on deaf ears,” a resident doctor at the institute tells The Ken, requesting anonymity. 

AIIMS Bhubaneswar is one of six ambitious institutions that have been set up since 2012; the other five are located in Rishikesh, Jodhpur, Bhopal, Patna, and Raipur. The idea was to create more institutes like AIIMS New Delhi—one of the capital’s biggest landmarks—to facilitate quality teaching and rigorous scientific research, which can then feed into affordable medical treatment.

In under a decade, they’ve transformed into functional medical colleges, albeit not on equal footing. While AIIMS Rishikesh and Jodhpur have made larger strides than the rest, it’s looking increasingly impossible for all the six institutes to replicate the DNA of its parent, AIIMS New Delhi.

The idea of building six new AIIMS centres was to reduce the load on AIIMS New Delhi. And yet, The Ken found patients from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who prefer travelling to Delhi, especially for cancer care. And due to increasing patient loads and a limited number of beds, patients have to face a waiting period in many cases, especially for surgery or complex investigative modulation complex investigative modulation Complex Investigative Modulation Involves employing multiple series of high-end tests to diagnose a health condition involving CT scans and MRIs for the heart and brain, detecting certain cancerous tumours and so on .

And in the non-Delhi centres that patients do visit, doctors, ironically, have not been doing so well. “We are overworked and exhausted, even doctors in Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology, which are non-clinical streams non-clinical streams Non-clinical Streams Streams in medicine pertinent to disease investigation and teaching like pathology and anatomy but not directly involving patient care are overexerted,” the doctor from AIIMS Bhubaneshwar quoted above says. It’s also harder to find specialists in some of these centres, overworked or not.

Both scenarios lead to a shortage in faculty, which then has a ripple effect on the healthcare system at large.


Maitri Porecha

Maitri writes about everything health for The Ken. For close to 10 years now, she has navigated hospital corridors in her search for a good story. In a past life, when she was not a journalist, she used to teach French at her neighbourhood school. Also an avid fan of forensics, she is always up for decoding mysteries in her free time.

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