With curfew in Kashmir entering 45th day, and no traffic plying on roads, patients and injured are faced with immense difficulties. Ambulance attacks and little show of sympathy for those needing medical care is adding to the perils of travel to health care facilities.
At Lal Ded Hospital, the only tertiary care maternity hospital in Kashmir, a beeline of women waits with their newborns for a vehicle to ferry them to their residential areas.
As ambulance of a local voluntary organization arrives at the hospital, people leap on to it. After a long hour of 'adjustments', the door of the ambulance with at least 35 people on board, including five new mothers and five newborns is slammed shut.
"This is the scene with every ambulance here," said Aijaz Ahmed, a volunteer with Help Poor Voluntary Trust (HPVT) that runs ambulance service at various Srinagar hospitals. Hospital authorities as well as voluntary organizations said that ambulance shortage is a serious issue as patients have no way to hire a private vehicle.
Snober Jan, a new mother from Kralpora Kupwara was left out of the lot that was allowed into the vehicle. "I have been waiting since morning and evening is approaching. No vehicle from Kupwara is available here," she said, nursing her newborn outside the Casualty Block of the hospital. Asked how she planned to travel over 15 kilometers beyond Kupwara to where her home was, she said, "We will walk if we reach Kupwara at least," she said.
Health authorities said that vehicle shortage was proving detrimental to patient care. "We have a few vehicles and hundreds of patients everyday at this hospital," a healthcare official said.
"We do not want patients, pregnant women and just operated women to be waiting on the pavements of the hospital for hours altogether. But, what can we do?" another senior official said.
Government has imposed restrictions on movement of vehicles but has not made any arrangement to facilitate safe and speedy referrals and transportation to health facilities, health authorities alleged.
At LD Hospital, there are only six ambulances available for the patients.
LD hospital records reveal that 3155 women have been admitted to the hospital in July. In August the figure has already crossed 2000," the hospital authorities said.
About 10,000 women have also been treated in OPD of the hospital in a month.
As per hospital records, 90 women were discharged from the hospital each day in July.
Incessant attacks on vehicles carrying patients including ambulances have resulted in a fear psychosis among people with many critically sick patients avoiding the risk of travelling. Hospital authorities as well as voluntary organizations have expressed anger over the crisis where ambulance movement was not allowed freely.
"Our drivers have been attacked, beaten and harassed. Our vehicles broken and patients subjected to distress and humiliation," manager of a voluntary organization at LD Hospital said.
He alleged that security forces made pregnant women walk miles but did not allow vehicle to reach them.
"It happened in many areas recently," he said.
Mushtaq Ahmed, a teacher from Kupwara who was beaten by security forces near Sopore while he accompanied his father for dialysis at SKIMS had to return halfway. "I was beaten ruthlessly by forces who said I was not allowed to be out on road in curfew," he said. Forces had not paid any heed to his pleas and the documentary evidence of his father being critically and terminally sick and in need of immediate medical attention. "I had to return as I could not attend to my father in this condition," he told Greater Kashmir over phone.