Amitabh Avasthi, Deputy Director Administration (DDA) at PGIMER, in an interview to Adil Akhzer says faith in the institute and the trust in PGI doctors is why the institute sees a large number of patients on a daily basis, and discusses the issue of streamlining the administration.
You were appointed for this post last year. What are the challenges you found after you took charge?
Change in assignments is a part of our job and the health sector is not new to my job profile. PGI is a national-level institute where things are entirely different and here the struggle is about maintaining its level and legacy. So in that way, the assignment was different and challenging. A few challenges which came across when I took over, in order of priority, were that I felt that there are certain services which need to be augmented. It was strongly felt that certain works were not functional due to certain disputes of lack of funds, and the challenge was to take them forward, come up with new centres of patient care and the perennial challenge of maintaining the queues, trying to reduce the rush, and ensuring that people get sufficient time from the doctors or the consultants for patient care. So that’s how this sector was different.
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How have you dealt with the challenges?
The work has already started in all the areas. The major was the 250-bed hospital because it was found out that 16 important services were left out of the plan when this was initially envisaged.’I’m very happy that the CPWD has now awarded and is in the process of starting the work. Another challenge was providing air-conditioning to the new OPD and improvement of Nehru Hospital. The process has also started in these two major areas. So as far as the air conditioning is concerned, we got it sanctioned from the SFC. The major challenge there is to shift the departments in a phased manner from that area to certain other places. It has a technical problem attached to it because the engineering perspective is that they would need the maximum area available to carry out the repairs and AC services.
PGI is seeing a huge rush of patients. Are you doing something for that?
Queuing up of the patients, decrease of rush are the daily problems which people have to face right now. We are actively involving ourselves for a proposal which gives us an idea as to how, through the softwares, display of the electronic boards, kiosks which would be located in different areas, would facilitate people to deposit their fee, and seek services at one counter. There is also the often stated suggestion regarding the multipurpose card which would act as the debit card and the registration card for the people and for depositing fees of the tests which people have to get carried out in PGI. So this is the plan, I think it’s going to take us at least 6 more months to make it concrete before it’s implemented. This is something that we look at as the biggest challenge and we face in the institute.
As an administration head, what have you done to streamline the administration?
What we’re trying to do is through a consultative process. we’ve been talking to the stakeholders whether they are our faculty members, other people in the staff belonging to different categories, their respective associations so that there is no communication gap between the administration and its other stakeholders as we all are working for the betterment of the institute and for providing better care to the patients who come to this institute. All pending matters pertaining to the staff of the institute have been defined properly and a timeline for the completion of the task has been notified.
Recently, PGI ordered cancellation of office superintendents promotions. What have you done to prevent such incidents?
Right now, I’d like not to comment on the issue because the matter is sub judice. From now onwards, what ‘we’re trying to do is whenever any test takes place especially the internal ones, the promotional ones, we’ll display the results on our websites the same day with the score so that there is no heart-burning and there are no feelings amongst the people that certain things can be managed.
The governing body also ordered review of six cases of faculty recruitment. Do you think there is a problem with the selection committee?
The selection committee is a properly constituted committee with subject experts and people of eminence in their fields who discharge their duties very diligently. There are some technical points on the basis of which certain things have to be dealt with.
Parking is a major issue in the institute. What is being done for this?
This is an institute where on average 7,000-8,000 vehicles enter the campus and leave, primarily between 8 am to 12:30 pm. The issue is peak hours for the institutes because at that time OPDs are brimming with people, tests have to be carried out and the environment is like that. In addition to the vehicles which enter the campus, we have at least 2,000 more vehicles belonging to the staff of the institute so you need parking space for 10,000 vehicles. Right now the defined space available with us is for around 4,000 vehicles. We need to enhance the parking spaces but it commiserates with the master plan which is under submission and is likely to be approved shortly. We’ve had meetings with the UT administration to explain our viewpoint to the concerned authorities. A multi-level parking for 900 vehicles is under way and as soon as the master plan approval is accorded, three more parkings that are in the plan will be worked upon.
What is the reason the institute is receiving patients which can be handled at district hospitals?
It’s simply because people have a lot of faith in the institute and they trust the doctors. You’re absolutely right in saying that only referrals should come here. We’ve already taken up the issue with governments of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and the UT Administration. The health authorities of these states have been requested to kindly see to it that people with basic problems are being taken care of as per the infrastructure available in those states.
Of late, there is an increase in agitations by the associations which affect patient care. Any steps being taken to prevent these agitations?
There are some incidents which are actually impulsive episodes between two individuals, which somehow get converted into issues of two stakeholders. We have had a discussion with all the stakeholders, and they have been clearly informed that if they have any problem they can approach us anytime for amicable solutions to the issues, but no indiscipline in the institute will be tolerated. We have already issued a circular in this regard…agitations in the future will be treated as illegal.
Recently, it was reported that PGI is overcharging from patients in the sale of stents.
The institute has not received any notice from NPPA. We don’t sell stents. The Amrit coordinates the stents here. When we received the information from the press, we asked for reports from concerned departments, and we were informed that stents are being provided at the approved rates.
Fire safety is an important issue. Last year there was a tragedy in a hospital in Odisha. What steps are you taking here?
It is very serious. We have received directions from the ministry. There are some old buildings. We are actively in the process of getting NOCs from the various departments to make all the buildings fire compliant.
So when will the PGI get a new director? It’s been five months and people are raising questions that the institute without a regular director is affecting the work of the institute.
The matter is at an appropriate level for a decision. Having a regular director is always good for institute, although it is not appropriate to say that in the absence of a regular director, things are not happening in PGI.