In the last one year, the hospitals attached to the government medical colleges and the colleges have been in news for all the wrong reasons.
It is not that the Medical Education department is afflicted with a malady. It is but one among the charastertic government departments. The difference is that unlike others, Medical Education department is entrusted with the onerous responsibility of meeting health needs of lakhs of people at the grassroots level.
The department is also vested with the responsibility of turning out qualified doctors and paramedical staff. But the developments in this department gives hardly any indication that it is either meant for the poor or meritorious students. The surprise visits of Medical Education Minister S A Ramdas to hospitals and the scams unearthed in the medical colleges only reflect the sad state of affairs.
Almost all the twelve autonomous medical colleges established by the government have been found erring either in examination processes or administrative matters. The Nursing Examination and the Paramedical Boards are not exceptions.
Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences itself is neck deep in scams. The irregularities at Vijayanagar Institute of Medical Sciences, Bellary (VIMS) during the PGCET last year, and the re-totalling scam have put the varsity in a spot.
With each surprise visit of the minister unearthing new scams, it appears that the department has to go a long way in streamlining its functioning.
When Deccan Herald checked the status of inquiries into various malpractices and irregularities that have come to light in recent times, it was found that the department has done little to take action against the guilty despite receiving the inquiry reports.
While the VIMS and the re-totalling scams which were referred to the CID and the police, respectively, are still under investigation, the minister’s surprise visits have led to suspension of erring officials. But many of them have moved the courts to get stay and have rejoined work.
Why this situation?
According to former RGUHS vice chancellor Dr Ramanand Shetty, surprise checks are not sufficient. It should be followed up with punishment. “The government officials find ways to mount pressure on the higher ups and ensure that no action is initiated against them. Punishing them has been very difficult,” he said. He, however, felt that it was wrong to blame the RGUHS for the scams.
“Senior officers had taken enough care to ensure that there were no lapses. As the malpractice occurred at an examination centre, the University cannot be blamed,” he said referring to the VIMS, Bellary episode.
He also said that it was RGUHS which had brought the re-totalling scam to the notice of the minister. “But no credit was given to the university. Instead, the university itself was blamed,” he added.
Shetty said the only way of ensuring quality education to students was adopting the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) proposed by the Centre. “It is unquestionably a good system. This will curb manipulation in the examinations and
drawing of seat matrix.”
The State has already announced that it would not join the NEET for the next two years.
RGUHS Vice Chancellor Dr K S Sriprakash too believes that the government had failed in enforcing the rules. “Enforcement of law should be stringent wherever the problems are.
Ever since the minister began the surprise visits in colleges, the employees have become a bit scared. However, the minister can only create alertness. There should be an internal monitoring system – a watchdog/local security, to monitor activities and functioning of the staff in the colleges. Often, we see enforcing authorities taking a soft stand,” he said.
The VC said that RGUHS was undertaking many measures to bring about reforms. One such reform is trying to get National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Professionals (NABH) certification to the varsity.
In addition, the University was in the process of setting up Medical Education Cells in all the colleges to monitor quality of education imparted to the students. This will help improve the teaching standards, he said. He also said that officials found indulging in malpractices have been transferred nondescript places in the university.
RGUHS is also in the process of computerising all the sections including the examination section, bringing down the instances of manual manipulation. The results are all submitted online. The University has also enforced installation of CCTVs in all the examination centres, he added.
Medical Education, principal secretary, Gopalkrishne Gowda, however, feels that his department is being victimised. He said except for the PGET examination scam, the other irregularities found were all ‘minor deficiencies’.
“We need to look at the bigger picture. The colleges are doing well – there is a high patient rate. The patients are not complaining, as we take good care of them. In fact, we are better than the private institutions.”
He also said too many watchdogs to check irregularities, malpractices and corruption wouldn’t help the matters. Duty consciousness should come from within, he added.
Gowda said the government was trying to address the problem of staff shortage, but the Finance Department was yet to give its approval.
Government Order: February 7, 2011
Irregularity: Without taking prior permission from the government, Y H Saali, Principal, Government Nursing School, Victoria Hospital, illegally granted permission for 46 nursing colleges (2,300 students) of Bidar district to hold nursing and midwifery exams at six centres in Bangalore. On February 3, during an inspection by the Medical Education Minister S A Ramdas at Sri Venkateshwara Engineering College campus in Bangalore, he spotted mass copying. Inquiry revealed Saali’s alleged illegal deeds.
Action/Status: The department suspended Saali. But he is reinstated, and now posted at Bowring Hospital.
Mandya Institute of Medical Sciences
GO: March 8, 2011
Irregularity: A complaint was lodged with the Lokayukta on September 22, 2006 urging to probe the irregularities in the appointment of teaching staff at the Institute. Dr Balasubramanyam was appointed as the inquiry officer. The Lokayukta submitted the interim report to the government on October 19, 2007 and the final report on June 11, 2010.
Action/Status: The government appointed a retired district judge N Narayana to probe the irregularities including in the purchase of equipment/furniture. The inquiry report is yet to be placed before the governing council to take action.
Karnataka Nursing and Paramedical Board
GO: March 11, 2011
Irregularity: On his surprise visit to Karnataka Nursing Council and Paramedical Board on March 10, Ramdas noticed that of the 21 employees, eight were absent. Council Registrar H L Ramamurthy came late to office and Board Registrar B N Muninarayanappa was absent unauthorisedly. It came to light that the delay in collection of fees from students had caused a loss of Rs 4.13 lakh and that there was no stock register of movable and immovable properties of the Board.
Action/Status: The minister issued notices to all. The government appointed retired chief medical superintendent Dr Vasundhara Hegde, as the inquiry officer. Chief administrator of Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute Prabhakar was appointed to assist her. Inquiry report submitted; the government is verifying it.
GO: March 23, 2011
Irregularity: On his visit to the hospital on March 21, Ramdas noticed lapses including unauthorised leave, corruption and inferior quality food being served to the patients.
Action/Status: Government appointed retired joint director of medical education department Dr Khaja Nasiruddin, to probe and give a report on the lapses and suggest measures to improve efficiency among the employees.
Inquiry report submitted; guilty suspended. But, the doctors brought a stay from the High Court on the suspension.
Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), Hubli
GO: May 23, 2011
Irregularity: On his visit to Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences, Hubli on April 11, Ramdas noticed that nine doctors were absent but two of them had signed on the attendance register before bunking off. The Director hadn’t signed in the register for six days. Violations of rules in promotions and purchase of Aphresis machine which was not used, were some of the other lapses found.
Action/Status: The government appointed retired district judge N Narayana to probe the lapses. Inquiry report is yet to be received.
Directorate of Medical Education (DME)
GO: August 29, 2011
Irregularity: On his inspection to DME, Ramadas found lapses including unauthorised leave, non-framing of C&R Rules for the employees and lapses in maintenance of accounts of the Chief Minister’s Medical Relief Society.
Action/Status: Government appointed retired district and sessions judge N Narayana to look into the lapses, suggest measures to reform administrative matters and measures to enhance the capability of the employees.