Work at the delayed All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) campus in the temple town of Madurai has started briskly. This has ended the ‘single brick’ election campaign launched by the DMK and its alliance partners to stress that the Centre was discriminating against states ruled by the opposition parties.

In a jibe at the delay, a full-page advertisement on various questions raised by the DMK mentioned, “A hospital with a single brick. Why this?” Various television channels broadcast advertisements in which an auto driver with a female passenger keeps searching for the multi-speciality hospital, but ends up looking at the ‘single brick’ campus.

However, a month before the elections scheduled for April 19 in Tamil Nadu, the construction at the hospital campus had started. The construction of project quality control and quality assurance office is in progress. The concrete batching plant foundation is in progress, AIIMS Madurai updated in X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday.

Many workers were seen working at the campus when this reporter visited the site on Sunday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the hospital on January 27, 2019, but only the boundary wall for the 222-acre campus was built.

As a temporary measure, the State government provided the fifth floor of the new building in the Government Medical College and Hospital, Ramanathapuram, for AIIMS students for three years. Classes are underway, with 50 students in each batch.

Reasons for delay

Larsen & Toubro in March said it secured an order from AIIMS Madurai to construct a comprehensive medical campus, including a 720-bed hospital, a 150-bed Infectious Diseases Block, a 30-bed AYUSH Block, a medical college, a nursing college, an auditorium, hostel facilities, and residential units, within a timeframe of 33 months.

The approved project cost was ₹1,264 crore, and JICA estimated the revised cost was at ₹1,977.8 crore due to i inclusion of 150 bedded Infectious Disease Block and some other additions.

The project implementation has taken time since it was decided to be undertaken under Extra Budgetary Resource (EBR) Funding through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Of the total project cost, 82 per cent will be covered by a loan from JICA, and the remaining will be funded by the Government of India.

AIIMS Madurai campus
| Photo Credit: T E Raja Simhan

The new AIIMS will come up at Thoppur, about 18 km from Madurai, and will provide leadership in advanced healthcare, medical education and research in the region. This location will benefit people residing in the Southern backward districts of Tamil Nadu, the Prime Minister said in his speech while launching the project in 2019.

Healthcare brand

AIIMS in Delhi has cultivated a brand name for itself in healthcare. With AIIMS in Madurai, we can say that this brand of healthcare has been taken to all corners of the country – from Kashmir to Madurai and from Guwahati to Gujarat, he said.

The campus is 2.5 km from Kappalur off thelongest National Highway in India, NH 44. Between Kappalur and Thoppur, there is also a Sri Lankan refugee camp, and the PTR Engineering College. A number of residential houses have started coming up in the area, which is now a ‘golden’ region with huge land costs, thanks to AIIMS, said cab driver Rajesh. “Even though AIIMS Madurai will be a landmark for the region, it is far from Madurai,” he said.

Meanwhile, AIIMS Madurai students at Ramanathapuram on Saturday demanded basic amenities inside the medical college. They had difficulty in doing practical assignments due to poor infrastructural facilities. Since it is a temporary building, there cannot be a permanent arrangement. The authorities told the students, and the students told newspersons.

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