The Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad is a hospital of considerable repute. Founded in 1961 as an Orthopaedic Hospital by the Nizam’s Charitable Trust, the hospital was handed over to the AP government for 99 years on a one-rupee-a-year lease in 1976. In 1986, the hospital was transformed into the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, and since 1989, NIMS has been a university recognised by the UGC and the Medical Council of India.
NIMS has had some bad press in recent times: some employees have been demanding redressal of grievances, and the media has exposed corruption. The hospital’s authorities have also been widely pilloried for giving preferential treatment to celebrities.
But the stunning news relating to Ramabrahmam that was revealed last week was of a wholly different order:
Mr Ramabrahmam is a Senior Secretarial Assistant at NIMS. In 1999, he had cancer of the larynx and subsequently underwent a complete laryngectomy operation. Healthy since then, in the past 13 years he did not take any related medical leave.
Now, Mr Ramabrahmam has an ongoing employment dispute with NIMS the merits of which need not detain us. Suffice it to say that he approached the AP High Court which directed NIMS to establish a promotion list. Mr. Ramabrahmam claims that the 2002 court orders were not implemented and that he recently filed an application under the RTI Act.
This is when NIMS finally got into action.
You had cancer 13 years ago, submit a health certificate to establish that you are in good health, it ordered. Mr Ramabrahmam submitted certificates issued by three Doctors working at NIMS: Dr Lanka Krishna of the Cardiology Department, Dr YS Raju of the General Medicine Department and Dr Raghunatha Rao of the Medical Oncology Department.
But these certificates from his own hospital were not enough for executive registrar Prof T Ramesh Kumar Rao. He called for another certificate from Dr Umanath Nayak of Apollo Hospitals who had performed the laryngectomy. Dr Nayak issued a certificate, and added that Ramabrahmam was a social activist, and a role model and an inspiration for other laryngectomees.
This may have satisfied most ordinary persons, but not so Prof Kumar in whose mind “a question has arisen on his long-term survival chances”. He therefore asked Ramabrahmam to produce a medical certificate ‘on his long term surivival chances’.
The brutal insensitivity of this order is clear — how can such a question be asked of any human being? And how is the survival chance of an employee linked to a pending promotion? If he really was ill would it not amount to discrimination on the grounds of disability, since there was no issue with his workplace efficiency?
Ramabrahmam approached the HC for protection from this unreasonable demand.
In March 2012, Justice Chandra Kumar responded by suspending Prof Kumar’s memo and issued notices to the director of NIMS, its executive registrar as well as to the MCI. While the Court notices appear not to have been responded to, Ramabrahmam has reportedly been taunted as to when he would submit his ‘long-term survival chances’ certificate.
Prof Dharma Rakshak, the chief executive and chief academic officer of NIMS, and Prof Kumar, the executive registrar who signed the insane demand, ought to issue a clarification now that this disgraceful episode is exposed in the media.
As doctors they could clarify how their demand is medically justified, and as employers they could clarify why their behaviour should not be construed as workplace bullying.
Doctors in India are bound by the MCI’s Code of Ethics. Medical institutions should act to ensure the highest ethical standards and managerial competence in their functioning. The CM who is the president of the Governing Council of NIMS, the health minister who is its vice-president and the MCI should urgently consider if the doctors have acted in a manner that enhances the prestige of their institution or their profession. Then some ‘long term survival’ certificates could be issued to the administrators at NIMS. Or not.