UCMS Delhi: DU, Delhi Government again at loggerheads over medical college

‘Dual control’ over UCMS Delhi has slowed growth of MBBS, PG seats, new departments. But a shift to Delhi government will undermine autonomy.

UCMS Delhi: DU, Delhi Government again at loggerheads over medical college.(Image: Special Arrangement)UCMS Delhi: DU, Delhi Government again at loggerheads over medical college.(Image: Special Arrangement)

Shradha Chettri | May 21, 2024 | 04:34 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The death of a man in January due to the unavailability of a CT scan machine in Delhi’s hospitals did not just open a can of worms about public healthcare in the capital, it also proved to be hugely consequential for a medical college. The issue of governance of the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), Delhi University – believed to be buried for good in 2016 with a Delhi High Court stay order – has emerged again.

For close to two decades, Delhi University – a central institution – and the Delhi government have squabbled over the responsibility of the government medical college. In 2016, the Delhi HC stayed a transfer to the Delhi government.

On April 15, a committee with the dean of Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) as chairman and five other members was constituted to “examine all aspects of handing over/taking over of UCMS by GNCTD from Delhi University”. The DU hasn’t taken a stance, but UCMS teachers say the university’s executive council (EC) has already allotted land for the college to build a hospital of its own.

Over the years, the lack of coordination between UCMS’ twin administrators has delayed fund utilisation and procurement, stalled the expansion of MBBS and PG seats, and even prevented the establishment of new departments, an EC note had said. But the shift will also significantly impact UCMS teachers.

‘Dual control’ over UCMS Delhi

The UCMS is the only DU-maintained medical college and was established in 1971 at the university’s chemistry block. As a medical college has to be associated with a hospital, students briefly attended clinical classes at Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial (LLRM) Medical
College, Meerut.

In 1973, it was shifted to the Safdarjung Hospital campus as an interim measure. The plan was to link the college to the 500-bed hospital that was coming up in east Delhi. In 1986, UCMS was shifted to Dilshad Garden and was associated with Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital (GTBH). This is where its troubles begin.

Maintained by DU, the UCMS is funded by the ministry of education via the University Grants Commission. The hospital, however, is managed and funded by the Delhi government. UCMS’ land and infrastructure belong to and are managed by the Delhi government while UCMS provides faculty, residents and interns, recruited by DU.

This, effectively, means dual administration of the institution and is the genesis of its problems. Efforts to make the various authorities work in tandem via committees simply failed as the committees never met.

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‘Complex 3-tier arrangement’

In a note submitted to the DU EC, the medical college authorities stated, “Since UCMS is controlled by DU and GTBH by GNCTD, it poses significant problems and obstacles in smooth functioning. While planning the UCMS-GTBH complex a 3-tier arrangement was envisaged, with a campus committee, chaired by principal UCMS with MS [medical superintendent] as member, to plan and develop UCMS-GTBH complex at the local level. At the second level a co-ordination committee, to be chaired by principal secretary health. Third level apex committee was to be chaired by Lt. Governor of Delhi with vice chancellor of DU as member.”

The note adds, “The mechanism of multiple committees to resolve the issues arising out of dual control has not worked as these committees have never met, except in the initial years. Even the efforts of the Supreme Court of India to intervene and bring DU and GNCTD to a workable solution have not been successful, petitions filed by the Supreme Court Young Advocates Forum in 1997 and 2003.”

MAMC pattern

The problem of “dual control” reached the Delhi High Court as well. In 2005, the court had given three options – convert UCMS-GTBH into an autonomous body, transfer UCMS to Delhi government or hand GTBH over to DU. The second and third were heavily opposed by their respective authorities.

Then, in August 2005, the union cabinet decided that the Delhi government will submit a proposal to the department of higher education to take over UCMS, to enable the government to run both college and hospital on the pattern of MAMC. Despite being affiliated to Delhi University, MAMC is run by the Delhi government and attached to the college are four state hospitals – Lok Nayak Hospital, GB Pant Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences, and Guru Nanak Eye Center.

DU had written to the ministry, then called “ministry of human resource development”, confirming it will comply with the order. However, its highest statutory body, the EC, in 2007 declined to comply with the decision and the matter of the transfer remained unresolved.

Again in 2015, as the court was hearing the case, it said that the 2005 cabinet decision had to be implemented and gave the two parties a month to complete the process. Then, the teachers association filed a petition and were able to secure a stay against the transfer.

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Missed deadlines, stalled expansion

Since the stay, the college had written to DU, drawing a relocation plan for itself and highlighting how the dual administration resulted in missing developmental deadlines and infrastructure expansion.

The EC note of 2023 said: “The increase in infrastructure requirements of UCMS-GTBH complex due to increase in UG and PG intake on account of implementation of OBC and EWS reservations have not been met. As a result, the UG intake could not be increased to 250 and is restricted to 170 every year. MRI machines have not been provided despite being a minimum requirement for MD radiology courses. Japanese Grant (1992), to upgrade the infrastructure of UCMS was not utilised due to lack of coordination.”

It had also said how the creation of many essential departments – physical medicine and rehabilitation and emergency medicine – has been stalled by the problem. The college had sought more land – 40-50 acres, with approximately 25 acres of built-up area with future expansion of approximately 2.5 acres – as per regulations of the National Medical Commission (NMC).

Rajpal Singh, an EC member told Careers360, “The university has acknowledged the problem and has already allotted land at Bawana so that a medical hospital can be built.”

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Loss of autonomy

On January 16, 2024, Delhi HC ordered the handing over of UCMS to the Delhi government.

The Times of India quoted the judges in a report: “One person died last week because there is no working CT scan machine. We can’t allow more deaths to take place. If there is no CT scan, what are you teaching the students there? A person died just a week ago, but the doctors are worried about promotional avenues and salaries. Their heart doesn’t beat? Doesn’t the doctor realise that a patient died because of a non-functional CT scan? Delhi University can’t be superior to the union
cabinet decision.”

The court also directed the Delhi government to file an undertaking that it will provide Rs 250 crore for the working of the college.

A member of the teachers association, on condition of anonymity, remarked: “The case has been going on for almost two decades now. A committee has been constituted but we are not sure how it is going to happen. It is a complex process.” The association has officially not made any statement.

Another faculty member, Amir Maroof Khan, professor, department of community medicine, told Careers360: “UCMS was created by an Act of Parliament and this is the only medical college in Delhi which is maintained by DU. MAMC and Lady Hardinge are affiliated to DU and they get their degrees from the university. Even though MAMC is under the Delhi government, the faculty is selected by the UPSC [Union Public Service Commission]. At UCMS, the faculty are recruited by the university and it is an autonomous college. Once we shift to state government, the first thing which will be hampered is autonomy. Education is a priority for a medical college and we want autonomy to be maintained.”.

The handover of the medical college to the Delhi government will also mean the teachers will no longer be central government employees. They say it will affect their service conditions.

“There is a difference between the central and Delhi governments on several aspects. The point is that this matter was raised in 2005 and now, two decades on, things have changed a lot and it is important to review those things and look into the present scenario. We respect the judgement of the High Court but it is important to understand that even at GTB Hospital, around half of the faculty are from the central health services cadre. The Delhi government, at present, does not have a medical teaching cadre,” added Khan, who mentioned that he was making the statement in a personal capacity.

For running of UCMS-GTB , the majority of faculty (192) and all the post-graduate resident doctors (approximately 600), senior residents (117) and interns (approximately 170), totaling approximately 1,080, are provided by UCMS.

Some said that the college was being held responsible for the lack of facilities in GTBH. “It is actually the responsibility of the Delhi government to provide those facilities. When they could not run their hospital properly, would they be able to do it for the medical college?” asked another faculty member.

Meanwhile, EC member Singh, said, “For the transfer to take place the EC has to approve it. We will not allow the transfer to take place as UCMS is an important constituent college of the university.”

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