SKIMS appoints neurosurgeon as head of General Surgery, sparks controversy


Srinagar, Nov 14: A neurosurgeon taking over as head of the General Surgery department at the SK Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) evoked a strong resentment from the faculty and the students.
Dr Altaf Rehman Kirmani, a renowned neurosurgeon, was made HoD General and Minimal Access Surgery on November 1, replacing Prof Khursheed Alam Wani, who had superannuated a day earlier.
Dr Kirmani, who is also Dean Faculty, has been practicing at the Neurosurgery department since May 1991, while he is mentioned in the records as a professor of General Surgery.
His appointment is being criticised by the faculty and the students, with them alleging that he has “practically zero experience” in General Surgery.
They have written multiple letters to Director SKIMS, expressing their resentment.
“…We would like to make our point of view very clear that we at any cost are not going to cooperate with your said order as it is morally and ethically wrong…,” reads a letter written jointly by eight faculty members.
“You are practically making the senior and experienced faculty to work under somebody who has practically zero experience of working in General Surgery.”
“The whole faculty of the department feels demoralised and seriously offended by the said move of the administration without application of mind.”
Postgraduate students and senior residents of General Surgery, too, in a similar letter to the Director, write: “We feel shocked to find that 57 postgraduates of surgery and dozens of senior residents have been put to get trained under the leadership of Prof Altaf Kirmani who all these years for almost 30 years has been practicing Neurosurgery and practically never taught or practiced General Surgery since he did his post-graduation”.
It, however, appears that Dr Kirmani has not been favoured for the first time.
In October 2005, during the Apical Selection Committee Meeting, Dr Kirmani, who was then studying for his M.Ch (Neurosurgery) while practicing in the same department, was told to choose between his post-doctoral training or opt for his appointment as Professor General Surgery.
Dr Kirmani chose to become a professor of General Surgery, however, in contravention to the set rules, also continued with his M.Ch (Neurosurgery), which he eventually completed in 2008.
Later, Director SKIMS, Prof A G Ahangar, who is also Ex-Officio Secretary to Government, discarded a memo passed by HoD Neurosurgery Prof Altaf Ramzan on November 4 to restructure the units of his department after Dr Kirmani was made HoD General Surgery.
“The memo in question shall be treated as null and void ab initio…HoD Neurosurgery, SKIMS shall henceforth refrain from issuing such arbitrary memo/s at his own level and shall remain careful in future,” read the Director’s letter to HoD Neurosurgery on November 6.
With this appointment, Dr Kirmani would be shuttling between the departments of Neurosurgery and General Surgery.
Dr Nisar Ahmad Chowdri, the senior-most Professor in the General Surgery department, said, “Today, we wrote yet another resentment letter to the Director, telling him that if the decision is not revoked in the next few days, the whole department will go on one day token strike.”
“We have not received any response from the Director to our previous letters.”
He said the HoD is supposed to conduct their teaching, training, and seminars of all 57 post-graduate doctors in the department.
“He is supposed to be experienced, one who thoroughly knows and has practiced the art of General Surgery,” he said.
Director SKIMS, Prof A G Ahangar, said, “Dr Kirmani’s postings, selections and promotions at various levels are based on his merit and seniority. There are no other reasons.”
Asked if he meant that Dr Kirmani was capable to head General Surgery, the Director said: “I am not saying that. Don’t put words into my mouth. I am telling what his merit and seniority is.”