Amply illustrating the height of official apathy, the work on generously funded H1N1 lab announced in the first cabinet meeting of the previous government is yet to start at Chest Diseases Hospital here making health authorities resort to 'arrangements' to cater to testing needs of people suspected of influenza.
When Kashmir was under the attack of H1N1 influenza beginning last year, the newly formed government announced start-of-art laboratories that could test for H1N1 influenza and other viral diseases, one each for Jammu and Srinagar. The funds for Srinagar lab were Rs 5.63 crore and Rs 6.30 crore for Jammu lab that was to come up at SMGS Jammu. The labs are yet to get rolling.
A visit to construction site of the lab at CD Hospital by Greater Kashmir revealed that completion is nowhere in sight. The bare four walls, of the site are not even cemented, there is no ceiling to the room and the path is getting tiled with two odd workers on the job. While health authorities had promised that the 'necessary equipment and regents are being procured on a war footing. Funds required for the purpose shall also be provided to the Principal, Government Medical College, and Srinagar from the State Plan immediately'.
However, as per officials of GMC Srinagar, not much came out of the government's commitment to strengthen testing facilities in the state as fund release was delayed and no work done for the lab. However, even after the funds were released, the work on the lab has been going on at snail's pace as per the insiders at the construction site.
Principal GMC Srinagar, Dr Kaiser Ahmed refuted that the pace of work was slow. "The work actually started a few months back and is going on well," he said. He added that the lab would take a 'few more months' to get completed. As per the records, the civil work is complete and the mechanical division is yet to start. There is no sign of electric fittings leave aside commissioning of testing at the site.
Recently, when the Governor took review of the H1N1 influenza preparedness of the state, the state health authorities presented a MoU signed with a private lab as a proof of state's readiness, conveniently brushing the delay in making the lab functional under the carpet. As a stop gap arrangement, SMHS Hospital had informed governor of a 'testing facility' in the hospital, the inadequacy of which is illustrated by the fact that a few more were also projected as backup, including the testing facilities of SKIMS, Soura.
The delay on the testing facility completion is a cause of concern as per medicos working in tertiary care hospitals of the state. "We know nothing of H1N1 influenza activity here as n tests are being conducted. We cannot say there is no influenza if we haven't tested for it," said a senior physician in Srinagar.