3800 neonate deaths in 4 years: What did JK bag award for?

ARSHAD HUSSAIN

Srinagar, Nov 30: Barely nine months after the reports of infant deaths at Kashmir’s lone children hospital here—GB Pant—shook the people of Kashmir, the state government’s acknowledgement of an award for the state being ‘number one’ in health sector has triggered doubts over the veracity of such recognition, if one goes by the facts on ground.

THE GB PANT STORY
As per the details with Greater Kashmir, the assessment for the award—given by the India Today Group—has been done on the basis of information collected from peripheral areas of Jammu and Kashmir like Kupwara, Damhal HanjiPora, Kokernag, Doda, Bani, Mandi (Poonch), Machil, Nobra, Diskit, Zanskar and Dacchan Marwah. The details enumerate ‘improvement’ in primary and secondary healthcare in 2011 and say the State has shown ‘rapid growth and spectacular improvement in healthcare’.
Surprisingly, the information collected showed the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of 43 per 1000 as lower than the all-India figure of 47 per 1000 in 2011. While this ‘rosy picture’ about the state’s health sector cheered up many, the facts on ground have a different tale to narrate. Most of the neonates, who have died at the GB Pant hospital, belonged to poor families from the peripheral areas of Kashmir mentioned in the award details.
In the Legislative Council on October 8 this year, the Medical Education Minister RS Chib said 3838 infants died at the GB Pant Hospital from 2008 to August 2012. The admission sent shivers down the spine of the observers. Chib admitted that 830 and 594 infants have died in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The situation is worse for the next two years as the death count therein has been 1768. While in 2010, the number of deaths has been 882, the count was 886 in 2011. Interestingly, this is the period for which the State has bagged the award for “excellence in healthcare.”
The infant mortality rate has increased in 2012 with 636 deaths recorded only at the G B Pant in first eight months of the year, following which the government had to get in a new medical superintendent Dr Munir Masoodi who replaced Dr Javid Chowdhary. Masoodi, according to insiders, has been instrumental in bringing about a ‘considerable degree of change’ at the GB Pant hospital in terms of infrastructure and administration.

GOVT LAXITY
So far the J&K Government has not fixed the responsibility for the neonate deaths, except for changing the MS after sustained media reports. This is notwithstanding the fact that a House Panel, in its report submitted on October 10 to the Legislative Assembly, clearly indicted Dr Chowdhary and senior faculty at GB Pant hospital for the infant deaths. In its 36-page report, the House panel stressed on the government to fix responsibility for what happened at the hospital. “The matter seems to be of a criminal nature and stern action needs to be taken against the responsible persons keeping in view their role and responsibility in terms of their designation and assigned duties,” the report had observed.

SHORTAGE OF MEDICOS
The award which the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah received on November 1 this year also highlights induction of some 230 regular doctors in 250 health centres in JK which had no doctor for over a decade.
The facts on ground however reveal that there is a massive backlog of PSC-confirmed Assistant Surgeons in all hospitals in the State and the recruitments being made under NRHM are contractual in nature.
“A lot of this augmentation is due to implementation of NRHM and by regular appointments,” the award details reveal.
The district hospital Baramulla in north Kashmir is craving for doctors and the paramedical staff. Against the sanctioned posts of 67 doctors, the hospital is short of 27 doctors including 18 posts of Medical Officers (Assistant Surgeons) and nine posts of B- Grade specialists. Similarly there is dearth of gyneacologists as three posts are lying vacant for years.
In South Kashmir, where referral hospitals exist in all districts and supplemented by Maternity and Children hospital in Islamabad (Anantnag), the patients are referred to Srinagar hospitals including LD, GB Pant, SMHS and SKIMS. In all these hospitals there is dearth of specialized staff.

MORE FACTS
While the House Panel report and a Govt-appointed one-man probe commission into G B Pant mess made certain startling revelations about the grim scenario of healthcare in the State, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report termed healthcare system in Jammu district as the one in “complete shambles with acute shortage of specialist doctors as well paramedical staff in major hospitals.” The report said that there is an acute shortage of doctors to an extent of 41 percent: shortage of 52 doctors against the requirement of 128 in Jammu district alone. The rural healthcare in Jammu has been rated as ‘dismal’ in the report, which also said that lack of infrastructure facilities have deprived the rural population of the envisaged healthcare benefits and with the result a majority of rural population has to move to urban areas for better treatment.

UNICEF REPORT
Apart from CAG report, the UNICEF has revealed poor state of mother-infant healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir with poor execution of welfare schemes like Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) in the State.
A ‘Coverage Evaluation Survey’ commissioned by UNICEF says the central government`s scheme for expecting mothers is poorly implemented in Jammu and Kashmir as only 27.3 percent mothers receive any assistance under the scheme during the period of pregnancy.
Under the Centrally-sponsored JSY scheme, a pregnant woman gets Rs 1,700 and if she comes with ASHA coordinator, she gets Rs 1400 for “institutional” deliveries as per norms. However, very less percentage of women get monetary benefit under the scheme in JK, the survey points out.
The data pertains to the latest survey conducted during the year 2009-2010 for the ‘Coverage Evaluation Survey-2009’.

Lastupdate on : Fri, 30 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 30 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 1 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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