The All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, the largest public hospital in India, has reversed its decision to shut down non-critical services on Monday till 2.30 pm to mark the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

On Saturday, the medical facility had announced that it would observe a half-day, barring for emergency services, in accordance with a Centre’s order to mark the Ayodhya event. The decision faced criticism on social media from the public and Opposition party members after which the hospital reversed its decision.

“The outpatient department shall remain open to attend to patients with appointments in order to prevent any inconvenience to them,” the Union government-run hospital said in a statement marked “most immediate” on Sunday.

Outpatient departments and emergency services at the Lady Hardinge Medical College, Smt. Sucheta Kriplani Hospital and Kalawati Hospital will remain open.

The Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital are yet to reverse their decisions to shut non-critical services for half a day on Monday.

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi remarked on social media, “All those who say what’s the big deal, I request you’ll to visit the OPDs [Outpatient Department] and emergency services offered by these hospitals and how people from far flung towns queue up for days, not merely a few hours for getting their advise/treatment.”

Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal said that such a decision would have never occurred in “Ram rajya”, the idea of a nationalist utopia popularised by Mahatma Gandhi and later adopted by Hindutva groups as a political tool against secularism.

Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Saket Gokhale remarked: “The poor and dying can wait because priority is given to Modi’s desperation for cameras and PR.”

“It’s totally unacceptable no matter how important an occasion be to shut down AIIMS or any hospital, clinic or essential services,” said K Sujatha Rao, a former Union secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said on X. “This is very wrong and nothing short of a crude and brazen abuse of power. Shameful.”

Fourteen doctors from the Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare urged the government to let hospitals function normally so that people who need medical care can be served.

“When any hospital shuts down suddenly it’s quite challenging for patients,” they said. “Medical service is a humanitarian cause. Such directive from the Government is against the medical ethics per se. Of course, at personal level, anyone could take off to participate in the event if he or she wishes so”.

A report in The Wire had estimated that the move to shut non-critical services at AIIMS would have affected 13,000 appointments in its outpatient department and more than 7,000 routine surgeries and laboratory services.

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