Experts seek ‘concerted efforts’ for rehab of physically disabled

“He had a massive stroke, was in a coma for months and had hemiplegia (paralysis of a side of body).
Experts seek ‘concerted efforts’ for rehab of physically disabled
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"He had a massive stroke, was in a coma for months and had hemiplegia (paralysis of a side of body). Now his motor function and speech has recovered and he is back to work," Dr. Showkat A Zargar, Director SKIMS, recalled about a colleague who he called a 'dear friend working in Gulf'.

However, such is not the fate of people who suffer a stroke, cardiac arrest or trauma in J&K.

At the conference of Indian Association of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation held at SKIMS on September 19th, experts called for efforts on behalf of stakeholders to provide optimum treatment and rehabilitation facilities for the people facing physical disabilities.

Healthcare experts at the conference said that concerted efforts on part of the government, civil society, doctors and other stakeholders were needed to put the patient back medically, physically, socially and vocationally.

"Disability is quite rampant in our state. We see over a hundred patients everyday in our OPD," said Dr. Ab Hamid Rather of Department of Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine SKIMS.

He added that the department needs to be further developed to be able to contribute to the needs of people.

"How can we provide rehabilitative therapies to all the hundred that come to us every day with our limited staff," he questioned.

The Department has only two faculty members and the total staff strength is 12. It is the only center of its kind in J&K. 

Dr. Showkat Zargar, Director SKIMS announced release of Rs. 2 crore for the department, of which, he said, requisition for equipment worth Rs. 1 crore had already been placed.

Doctors said that in spite of India being a signatory to the UN Convention on Rights of the Disabled, schemes for the disabled were ineffective. "A little gadgetry and a few hundred rupees is not what is needed," they said. In J&K, disability is not an issue that is worth a discussion by healthcare planners despite its rampancy", they lamented.

"A little money and some gadgetry will not do wonders. We need a lot of investment to make a difference in our society," the Director said. He called disability a 'social issue' and expressed dismay at the state of people with disabilities in J&K.

Reportedly, the department has not been able to recruit specialists despite several advertisements. "There are no specialists available as every year, just 10-12 postgraduate seats in the field are available," said a doctor.

It was agreed upon by various experts in the field that requisition to MCI for relaxation of recruitment rules was needed to augment the staff position at the department.

It was also agreed that extension services needed to be started at peripheral levels to reduce the load on the department. "But that is not possible if we are not staffed adequately to start dissemination and training activities," Dr. Rather said.

J&K has one of the highest number of people facing disabilities due to violence, accidents, diseases and congenital conditions, as per doctors.

While lack of functional trauma centers in the state adds up to the number of casualties due to medical and other emergencies, the lack of rehabilitative therapies makes more and more people end up with disabilities.

A doctor wishing anonymity said that it is the failure of the healthcare system in the state that is not able to ensure that preventive disabilities are prevented.

A person who has had a broken leg need not end up with a useless leg. But an orthopedic is not all he needs. And government has never taken a step to ensure that such patients get the kind of treatment they require which includes physiotherapy and other therapies," he said.

Greater Kashmir