SKIMS governing body, headed by chief minister, ignored repeated alerts from the institute’s director
Srinagar: SKIMS Soura Director, Prof AG Ahangar, who was attached to general adminstration department, had repeatedly informed the government that the institute’s doctors were doing private practice, and yet he has been removed after a sting operation by a New Delhi-based TV channel showed three SKIMS doctors providing private consultations at a fee.
Officials at SKIMS told Kashmir Reader that the government ignored repeated communications from Dr Ahangar about doctors doing private practice.
“The director had already alerted the government through various official communications about the menace of private practice. He sent nearly 10 letters to the government and the SKIMS governing body, headed by the Chief Minister as its chairperson, informing them about the menace. But not a single alert was acted upon by the governing body. Instead, those were ignored by the government,” an official at the hospital said.
An administrator told Kashmir Reader that Dr Ahangar has been made a scapegoat after the TV sting showed three senior doctors of SKIMS Soura indulging in private practice, to refrain from which they are provided Non-Practicing Allowance (NPA).
SKIMS faculty members get an NPA of up to 25 percent of their basic salary and dearness allowance (DA), which amounts to Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000, depending upon their grade.
Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2002 (Section 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act), any SKIMS doctor indulging in private practice shall be punished with up to three years of jail because such practice comes under criminal misconduct.
“SKIMS had issued many public notices also from time to time, warning faculty members of serious action in case they are found indulging in private practice. But the cautions were ignored by those indulging in private practice,” the administrator said.
The lack of action on complaints of private practice is also corroborated by the fact that a committee constituted last year for banning private practice never met, despite various complaints.
“No action was taken on the complaints, which allowed violators to work without fear,” said an official.
The SKIMS committee to check private practice comprises Principal Secretary, Health and Medical Education, Pawan Kotwal as chairman, Director of Health Services, Kashmir, Saleem-ur-Rehman, Director of AIDS Control Society, Mushtaq Ahmad, and Additional Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department, as its members.
The issue was also raised in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in 2012 and in 2015.
Renowned gastroenterologist Dr MS Khuroo, who is a member of the SKIMS governing body, told Kashmir Reader that the government should have constituted an inquiry against the director to bring the facts to the fore before removing him.
“I feel sorry for him because he was not doing private practice himself. The Director was helpless like his predecessors, because those involved in private practice have been part of the governing body. They bring a bad name to the institute and influence the government in every decision,” he said.
Dr Khuroo, himself a former SKIMS director, said he had recommended various measures to successive governments for ending the menace of private practice.
“I compiled a list of reforms to improve SKIMS. One of the measures was to ban private practice completely. However, those recommendations were never implemented,” he said.
Another former director, Dr Ajit Nagpal, told Kashmir Reader that private practice was also a big issue during his tenure (till 1982). He, too, said his recommendations and reform measures were never followed by the government and successive governing bodies.
“I had recommended various solutions to curb private practice in SKIMS. I had secured approval for a policy to incentivise doctors so that they stay away from private practice. But that was never implemented after I left the institution,” he said.
Dr Nagpal, who now heads a Special Task Force for Healthcare in J&K, said he was planning to meet the Chief Minister after the controversy emerged last week.
“I have already talked to the CM about the meeting. I will suggest some reforms when I meet her after coming back from Dubai,” he said.