A new swanky hospital that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate in Ahmedabad has sparked protests since it proposes to take away beds, super speciality services and the medical college attached to the 1931-founded Sheth Vadilal Sarabhai Hospital and Chinai Maternity Home.
V S Hospital is a public hospital easily accessible to people from economically weaker sections. It was set up on land provided by Ahmedabad Borough Municipality, which then had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as mayor, with a donation of Rs 1.20 lakh from Chinai family and Rs 4 lakh from Vadilal Sarabhai.
The new 17-floor hospital, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, is separated from VS Hospital by a wall. Overlooking the Sabarmati Riverfront, it will be run by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s Medical Education Trust (MET). With a helipad on the 18th floor, it has been built at a cost of Rs 331 crore, aided by Gujarat government’s Mukhyamantri Swarnim Yojana.
Trustees of VS Hospital — Brijesh and Rupa Chinai — have moved high court after the Charity Commissioner did not resolve their complaint against Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s decision to transfer beds to the new hospital and place administration of both hospitals under MET.
They fear the new hospital would force closure of V S hospital. Congress MLAs Gyasuddin Shaikh and Imran Khedawala have been leading protests on the issue.
A foremost concern of the protesters is that after the new hospital is operational, super speciality facilities of hematology, rheumatology, neurology, urology, gastroenterology, cardio-surgery and cardiothoracic procedures will be discontinued at V S Hospital and the NHL Municipal Medical College attached to it will also be made adjunct to the new hospital.
The trustees’ petition says that in September 2012, they received an invitation for the foundation stone laying ceremony of a multi-speciality hospital behind V S hospital. On March 28, 2013, the VS Hospital board of management, amid protest by the Chinais, resolved that the trust manage only 120 beds and the remaining 1,035 beds be transferred to AMC-MET.
Deputy municipal commissioner Kuldeep Arya, who is overseeing the new hospital project, told The Indian Express, “While the department of medicine, surgery, gynaecology and trauma centre will continue at VS Hospital, there are plans to dismantle part of the old building.”
On December 14 this year, the board resolved to transfer 655 beds of the VS Hospital with equipment, staff and employees, and the management of both hospitals to MET.
To allegations that the new hospital will be privatised, Arya says, “Although we are following the tariff structure as in private hospitals, this can’t be called a move towards privatisation as AMC will continue to run the hospital.”
The 1,500-bed new facility will operate with 300 beds from January 18 and is expected to function at full capacity within the next six months.
Arya, however, denied any “physical shift” of equipment to the new hospital.
He says, “The super-speciality infrastructure currently present at VS Hospital will not be shifted to the new hospital but we may shift it to some other hospital, partly because we believe the new hospital must not be made at the cost of VS Hospital and also because we don’t want to compromise it with the old equipment at VS Hospital.”
However, all the 130-140 clinical staff of VSH will be transferred to the new hospital in phases.
Arya said, “Since we have proposed that NHL Medical College be associated with the new hospital, we will be shifting them as all clinical staff is teaching staff at the college. Non-clinical staff will continue at VS Hospital.”