Medical colleges under the Delhi government do not have a Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), a reply to an RTI has revealed. The department, comprising qualified specialists, is supposed to help people with disabilities.
The RTI, filed by Dr Satendra Singh, a professor at the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), revealed that there are no PMR departments at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, LNJP Hospital and Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC).
A resolution adopted by the Central Council of Health Family Welfare, during a meeting in 1999, had discussed the role of the health sector in implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act. Following the meeting, the Medical Council of India (MCI) had directed every medical college to start a PMR department.
The office of the Chief Commissioner for Disabilities had, in 2008, instructed the MCI that “doctors not trained in rehabilitation should restrict their treatment of children with disabilities to their medical illness/disease or else action be initiated against such practices”.
Every aspiring doctor, pursuing MBBS, has to undergo a 15-day PMR training during internship. However, those who want to focus on it need to pursue a three-year specialised MD degree after their MBBS course ends. AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital as well as other hospitals under the Central government have PMR departments.
In the RTI reply, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, linked with the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), stated that no such record of the department being mandatory is available with them. Ambedkar Hospital also stated that “no record regarding establishing of physical medicine and rehabilitation department is available”.
MAMC stated that they have a partially functioning rehabilitation unit in the Department of Orthopaedics, which comprises occupational therapy and physiotherapy. LNJP Hospital stated, “No action required for us since we already have a rehabilitation facility in the Department of Orthopaedics.”
However, Singh said, “A PMR department and degree is not the same as that of a therapist. To become a PMR, one needs an MBBS degree. But that isn’t the case for physiotherapy. Absence of this department violates Section 25 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, to be read with Article 26 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which India ratified in 2007.” .
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in its annual report for 2011-12, had stated that they have sanctioned funds for hospitals in Delhi to start PMR departments. The Delhi Health Department had sent two reminders in 2013 to the medical superintendents of LNJP Hospital and GTB Hospital to send budget provision for the creation of PMR departments. “I, too, had sent a proposal for setting up of a PMR department in GTB hospital in 2013 and 2014 in my capacity as coordinator for persons with disabilities. Despite all of these efforts and guidelines, there is no PMR department,” said Singh.