Amid a massive row, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi today reversed its decision to shut non-critical services till 2.30 pm tomorrow for the grand consecration event at Ayodhya Ram Temple.
This comes a day after the premier healthcare facility announced a half-day break for staff in non-critical services. While the official note did not specifically mention if Out Patient Department (OPD) services would be available, it was feared that outdoor patients would not be able to consult specialists during the break.
A memorandum issued by Rajesh Kumar, AIIMS-Delhi’s administrative officer, yesterday had referred to the central government’s announcement of a half-day for government employees tomorrow. “It is notified for information of all the employees that the Institute will remain half day closed till 14.30 hrs on 22.01.2024,” the memorandum said. It, however, added that “all critical clinical services” shall remain functional.
The notification sparked a huge outcry, with many pointing out that patients wait for weeks, and sometimes, months to get an appointment at the premier healthcare facility. To shut OPD services suddenly would severely inconvenience them, especially those who had travelled from outside Delhi in the hope of good, affordable healthcare at the state-run facility.
This morning, AIIMS-Delhi issued a fresh notification, stating that the OPD “shall remain open to attend to patients with appointment in order to prevent any inconvenience to them and to facilitate patient care”.
Safdarjung Hospital, another key healthcare facility in the national capital, has said OPD registration will take place between 8 am and 10 am and all registered patients will be attended to. The hospital will run pharmacy services till noon but elective surgeries won’t take place.
Earlier, Opposition leaders had strongly slammed the AIIMS announcement of a half-day break for the Ayodhya event. Rajya Sabha MP and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi had hit out at the move with a sarcastic post on X. “Hello humans, Please don’t go into a medical emergency on 22nd, and if you do schedule it for post 2pm since AIIMS Delhi is taking time off to welcome Maryada Purushottam Ram,” she had posted.
“PS: However, wonder if Lord Ram would agree that health services are disrupted to welcome him. Hey Ram, Hey Ram!,” she added.
Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale, too, criticised the move yesterday. “India’s largest Government Hospital AIIMS Delhi will remain closed till 2:30 pm on Monday. There are literally people sleeping outside in the cold at AIIMS gates waiting for an appointment. The poor and dying can wait because priority is given to Modi’s desperation for cameras and PR,” Mr Gokhale posted on X.
The centre has announced a half-day leave for government employees tomorrow so that they can watch live telecast of the pran pratishta ceremony in Ayodhya, last-minute preparations for which are underway.
Several states have announced half or full day leave for government offices and educational institutions tomorrow.