[ Taba Ajum ]
The state government committed a grave mistake by converting Arunachal’s first state hospital at Naharlagun into a medical college – the Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (TIRHMS)-when there were already openings for the government to build it elsewhere in the capital region.
The government had already acquired land for construction of a medical college way back in the 90s at Pachin.
However, the government never took an appropriate initiative to start the process of setting up a medical college there, and instead took the easy way out by converting the state hospital into a medical college by claiming that land encroachers are creating trouble at Pachin. That was an easy excuse.
Is the government so weak as to surrender to a bunch of land grabbers?
Now, history is being repeated at the Rama Krishna Mission Hospital (RKMH). The state government had announced the construction of a 200-bedded hospital for Itanagar in the 2019 budget. But a year later, it claimed that there is no land, and therefore, it will convert the RKMH into a 200-bedded hospital. In the meantime, news emerged that the government never sincerely tried to identify a land.
It has come to the fore that local MLA Techi Kaso and the land management department had no idea that the government was looking for land. This is shocking and contradicts the claims of the government, including Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s. If they were committed to the project, the state government should have engaged the local MLA and land management department to identify a land.
The government is trying to find an easy way out by converting the RKMH into a 200-bedded hospital when TRIHMS is a good example for the government to learn from its past mistake.
It is located in a very congested place and people struggle to reach it. There is not enough land for future development. Until the land acquired at Pachin for medical college is reclaimed, the TRIHMS will have no land for future development.
Unfortunately, the same situation will arise at the RKMH as it is also located in a highly congested part of Itanagar and has no scope for future expansion.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu is committing a blunder by listening to the advice of lazy and incompetent officials, who shirk from their responsibilities and look for easy ways out. They will always use the excuse of land compensation and lack of land as reasons to make up for their own incompetency.
Ideally, the new 200-bedded hospital should be constructed at an outskirt area, like Jullang or Chimpu or even Hollongi, for better planning. The government should entrust the land management department with the task of identifying the land by coordinating with the capital district administration.
The local MLA has already identified a government land at Pagatara, Jullang that can be used to construct the hospital, and the government should explore the possibility of using this land.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu should also reconsider the decision.
There is no doubt that the RKMH requires an upgrade, and successive governments over the years have supported the growth of the hospital. At present, the hospital has a 250-bed capacity and the state government should extend help to it to raise the capacity to at least 400 beds. But it should not be done at the cost of the proposed new 200-bedded government hospital.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the poor healthcare scenario of the state. The government should learn from it and make a long-term plan to drastically improve the health sector.
The state’s capital region is the gateway to the state and is highly populated, but the health care facilities are very poor. At present, two major hospitals -TRIHMS and RKMH cater to the needs of the people. In order to decongest TRIHMS, the government should construct another state hospital at Nirjuli and to decongest RKMH, the 200-bedded hospital should be constructed at Jully or Chimpu.
Notably, Itanagar does not have a proper government hospital, barring a few PHCs and sub centres. The RKMH is run by a private NGO, while the Heema Hospital is privately-owned.