The Covid-19 pandemic exposed how years of neglect has deprived millions in India of basic healthcare. Health-related infrastructure, where available, is not up to the mark. The private sector is the major player in the country, but it is the public sector that fulfils the requirement for the many who cannot afford private healthcare. W.H.O data indicates there are 9.28 medical doctors per 10,000 population in India – much below the WHO prescribed ratio of 1 for every 1,000 population.
Amidst all this, a viral social media post was spotted comparing the number of new healthcare facilities, specifically, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, established under different Prime Ministers, right from India’s first PM to the current PM.
The expansion of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences across the country was announced under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna (PMSSY) in 2003 with the aim of “correcting the imbalances in the availability of affordable/reliable tertiary level healthcare in the country…and to augment facilities for quality medical education.”
This post went viral during May 2021 on Facebook and has made its way onto platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
This post compares the ‘performance’ of six former Prime Ministers by juxtaposing their alleged achievements with those of the current PM- implying their commitment towards healthcare & people in the country. The post claims that 14 AIIMS hospitals have been set up under PM Narendra Modi since he took charge in 2014, followed by six under former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and one each under Dr Manmohan Singh & Jawaharlal Nehru.
The AIIMS New Delhi was set up in 1956 under India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and is consistently rated the best & the most sought after hospital in the country. The hospital had to expand its OPD capacity in 2019 to cater to the large number of patients seeking treatment from different parts of the country.
While the need for more such hospitals has been echoed in political manifestos by different parties, concrete action in this regard was only taken in 2003. In his Independence Day address, PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced that “six new hospitals with modern facilities, like those available at AIIMS in Delhi, will be established in backward States in the next three years.” But it wasn’t until 2012 that two of these six hospitals (at Jodhpur and Raipur) were complete.
The AIIMS at Raebareli in U.P was approved in February 2009 under the second phase of the PMSSY at an expected cost of ₹823 crores. The Congress-led UPA was in power at the time, with Dr Manmohan Singh as PM. An announcement for its establishment came in 2013, and it finally started treating patients in 2018 when its OPD became functional – under the current PM, Narendra Modi.
The PMSSY website confirms that the list of AIIMS mentioned under PM Modi’s name in the post were indeed approved after he took over in 2014 (2015 to 2020). However, out of these 14 locations, not a single facility of AIIMS is fully functional.
Out of the 14, twelve hospitals have started conducting classes at the MBBS level, while only seven have functional OPD facilities. At the moment, the other two facilities- AIIMS Darbhanga and Manethi- are not operational in any capacity. The approval for the proposed AIIMS in Bihar’s Darbhanga has come as recently as September 2020. No timeline has been fixed yet for laying the foundation stone. This was reiterated again in parliament on July 30, 2021, by the Health minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, who said that only six of the sanctioned AIIMS in 2003 by the Vajpayee government at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh are fully functional.
According to the government’s own deadlines, the proposed AIIMS buildings in 7 locations – Gorakhpur, Manglagiri, Nagpur, Kalyani, Bathinda, Guwahati and Bilaspur should have been completed by June 2021.
Out of these 7 locations, the AIIMS facility at Gorakhpur is now set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 7 December 2021. The construction of the institute is delayed by 6 months as per the previously stated timeline of June 2021.
However, the PMSSY website says that the construction of the main building has not yet been completed in many of these locations.
As claimed in the viral post, PM Modi announced the setting up of fourteen AIIMS, Vajpayee six, Dr Manmohan Singh and Jawaharlal Nehru one each. However, it does not take into account the work done on these institutes by the subsequent governments.
Further, none of the hospitals mentioned in the viral post (proposed under Prime Minister Narendra Modi) is fully functional. All of them are still under different stages of construction at the moment. Therefore, it is factually incorrect and misleading to attribute them to the current government as they are still under construction or have just been announced recently with no timeline for completion of work decided.
Edit; this copy has been edited to include an update about the inaugural of AIIMS Gorakhpur slated for 7 December 2021