Rajiv Gandhi Super-specialty Hospital in Raichur, which was a landmark initiative in providing affordable healthcare to the people of backward Hyderabad Karnataka region for 10 years, has remained shut for the last one year with no hope of revival.
The government, in the meanwhile, is making plans to convert it into a postgraduate teaching hospital attached to Raichur Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), which would mean that it will no longer be a super-specialty hospital. This move has left people of the region and former employees shocked.
Better known as OPEC Hospital (as it was built with the Rs. 60-crore financial aid of Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), the facility built on 72 acres sanctioned by the government was, in its heyday, comparable to the best super-specialty hospital in the State capital. Today, the massive building is abandoned and high-end equipment remains covered in dust.
The 285 employees of the hospital observed June 1 as Black Day by blocking Hyderabad-Raichur highway. It was on this day that the hospital shut down a year ago.
OPEC Hospital, the 422-bed state-of-the-art facility, was inaugurated in 2000 by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Just a year later, the government handed it over to Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd for 10 years to run it under government supervision. The government agreed to meet the monthly revenue expenditure of Rs. 1 crore, in addition to capital investment for machines and equipment.
It also agreed to provide one-time grant of Rs. 9.5 crore for re-equipping and Rs. 10.1 crore for administrative expenditure.
The hospital handled an average of over 25,000 patients annually, mostly poor, as families of Below Poverty Line (BPL) could get super-specialty treatment free of cost while families of Above Poverty Line (APL) could get huge concessions.
However, with the contract between Apollo and the Karnataka government expiring, OPEC Hospital closed its doors on June 1, 2012, as the government showed no interest either to renew the contract or to take over the management.
Instead of taking steps to reopen the super-specialty hospital, the government transferred the hospital from the Department of Health and Family Welfare to the Department of Higher Education and plans to turn it into a teaching hospital, much to the shock and disappointment of people.
R. Manasaiah, who has been in forefront of the struggle of the employees, says that it is the private hospitals lobby that was responsible for first handing the hospital over to a private management and finally its closure.
The common demand in the region is for reopening the hospital, but people are opposed to handing it over the management to any private entity.
They demand that it should be reopened as an autonomous body or that the management should be vested with the State government.
When The Hindu contacted U.T. Khader, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, he pleaded ignorance of the issue and promised to consult officers concerned and get more information.