Majority of the lucrative private diagnostic centres in Srinagar lack adequate heating arrangements, forcing patients to suffer biting cold for long waiting hours.
At a diagnostic clinic set up in a building near the SMHS Hospital, patients wait in the lawns. The waiting room has a few benches, which cannot accommodate all patients, not to speak of their attendants.
The clinic has MRI facilities and receives critically sick patients. But there is no ramp leading to the main centre. At the building's entrance, patients get down from stretchers and wheelchairs. Their attendants carry them in the lap or help them climb the stairs to the waiting area.
All patients go through this ordeal at nearly all diagnostic centers in the city.
At an Ultra-Sonography (USG) clinic near the LD Hospital, scores of pregnant women wait for their turn, sitting on wooden benches lining a narrow corridor. The waiting space has no door to stop the December chill, nor any heating device to keep them warm. The clinic has a dilapidated, stinking "toilet" cramped in a dark corner.
Shameema, who is into the eighth month of her pregnancy, had left her home early in the morning for a checkup at the LD Hospital and had been advised a Color Doppler test. She had been waiting for four hours at the clinic when this reporter spoke to her.
At a Karan Nagar diagnostic center, an elderly man with a slip disc struggled to climb stairs to get his MRI done. The centre has no arrangement to take such patients comfortably to the lab.
At old Charari Sharif Adda, an Ultrasound and Colour Doppler Centre is located on the second floor of the building that mainly houses clinics and diagnostic centres. The 18×28 feet waiting hall for attendants accompanying patients has no heating arrangement. There is a small room into which the patients are ushered in before they finally enter the doctor's room. The room has an LPG heater, which, in absence of ventilation, becomes unbearable for patients after a few minutes. They prefer the cold to the dizziness caused by the gas heater after a few minutes. On an average, 20 patients are scanned at this centre a day, which translates into substantial income in a month.
A doctor at SMHS Hospital said, "These labs fleece patients but do not spend a penny on their comfort." He expressed concern that there was no authority to monitor the diagnostic centres in Kashmir.
Although the directorate of health services is mandated to issue licences to diagnostic centres and ensure they adhere to the regulations, the provision of amenities is not spelt out in any of the regulations, an official in the directorate said.