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NEIGRIHMS: Where do we go from here?

Dr Synrang Batngen Warjri

When I joined NEIGRIHMS in 2012 as a senior resident doctor in the department of medicine, I was excited to be part of an “Institute of National Importance” that has potential to be one of the best in the nation in terms of providing quality services at all levels of super specialised healthcare. NEIGRIHMS was in fact established with a purpose of bringing super-speciality services nearer home for the people of the Northeast and to provide access to quality medical education to aspiring doctors from the region. Since its establishment NEIGRIHMS has grown exponentially in terms of patient load and infrastructure. Back in 2004, there were on an average 10 patients attending the Cardiology OPD alone as compared to 200 to 250 patients per day in the current year. It has been a joy seeing NEIGRIHMS grow through these years and as many more patients from neighbouring states and countries start flocking here, NEIGRIHMS can potentially become the best in the Nation. As a DM Cardiology student here in NEIGRIHMS, I feel privileged to be part of a department that has been a leading example of progress and development.  In the last two years in the Department of Cardiology I have grown to appreciate the hard work, discipline, sincerity and the determination of each member of the department. This department has contributed so much to the Northeast people not just in terms of patient care but also in nuturing and producing future Cardiologists for the region. The first ever Cardiologist after Independent India in Arunachal Pradesh is a product of NEIGRIHMS’ Cardiology department and so will be Meghalaya’s. There is so much more NEIGRIHMS can offer to the people of this region if only the issues at hand are solved urgently. As the only Khasi pursuing DM Cardiology as a student here in NEIGRIHMS, I feel obliged to write as to what exactly is afflicting NEIGRIHMS. I write because I feel the people of this region should start taking interest in the functioning of this institute; because the ones who stand to gain (or lose) the most from this Institute are the people of the Northeast. How many patients from the state who require super-speciality consults have to go as far as Vellore or Chennai or Delhi for the same? The Department of Cardiology, the only fully functional superspeciality department in NEIGRIHMS, has been sincerely offering these services to patients from the State and also neighbouring states since the last 15 years. This has been made possible because of the hard work and dedication of a few good men who were willing to sacrifice better job opportunities, willing to leave their home town and family far away, to climb up these beautiful hills of ours and build a department from scratch. I am proud to say that these few good men are now my teachers under whose wings I am training to be the next Cardiologist. What NEIGRIHMS needs at this juncture are a few more good men as these, who are willing to build more superspeciality departments from scratch. It is incumbent upon the Institute to create conditions that will encourage such dedicated faculty to join it.

The last couple of years have, however, been a very different story for most departments in NEIGRIHMS. The super-speciality departments are being systematically harassed by the administration. There is a conscious effort by the administration to demote and merge super-speciality departments with either General Surgery or General Medicine. Many super-specialist doctors in important Departments such as Oncology, Cardiothoracic Vascular Surgery and specialised departments like Anaesthesia and ENT have either resigned or are being refused extensions. The Department of Cardiology has been at the centre of this turmoil with the administration specifically and maliciously targeting the Department Head, Dr Animesh Mishra, a man who had the vision and the dedication to build the Cardiology department right from when NEIGRIHMS, Mawdiangdiang was nothing but a vast forest. It is under the able and dynamic leadership of this man that the Department of Cardiology, NEIGRIHMS is now the most sought after Department in the Northeast. Yet to such a man who dedicated the best years of  his life to build this wonderful department, the NEIGRIHMS administration chooses to maliciously malign his reputation in local newspapers, calling him a rogue doctor and making baseless accusations in public media. Such irrational behaviour on the part of the administration will have far reaching ramifications. Firstly, it will deter many super-speciality doctors from joining the Institute and secondly; those who are already here will also consider leaving at the slightest hint of an opportunity elsewhere.

There are also many more troubling issues that the administration has failed to solve or is simply found lacking in taking the proper initiative. There is an ongoing degradation in the functioning of the Institute which if left unchecked will ultimately destroy it. Various post graduate courses of important departments such as General Surgery, General Medicine and Anaesthesiology have been de-recognised due to reasons ranging from the inability to perform the requisite number of operations, the inadequate number of operation theatre timings,  the shortage of requisite faculty, etc. Whatever the reasons may be, the fact is there is an inertia and a lack of initiative on the part of the hospital administration to actively pursue these problems with the Ministry. Then there are the problems arising from the bungling of exams of the final year DM Cardiology which is yet to be resolved and the failure to allot quarters to married resident doctors (which the Director NEIGRIHMS snatched away from Residents against the decision of the quarter allotment committee).

At the helm of all this administrative chaos sits the Director, a man who has only recently joined us, who has proven himself incapable of handling all these issues swiftly and decisively. His false promises have not been well received and his methods not popularly appreciated. At this rate NEIGRIHMS will lose many more good men and it will deteriorate to nothing more than a primary health care centre (PHC). Wake up my fellow northeast brothers and sisters. This is your hospital; claim it and own it. Let your voices be heard before it is too late. I hope the Ministry will take stock of the situation sooner than later.

(The writer is DM, Senior Resident (Academic)Department of Cardiology NEIGRIHMS)

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