Srinagar, July 21: In a memorandum submitted to the Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Member of Parliament from Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, along with M.Y. Tarigami and Dr Mehboob Beg has drawn attention to the "dire situation" at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Srinagar, as well as other premier hospitals in the region.
Established in 1976 and inaugurated on December 5, 1982, with an initial bed capacity of 250, SKIMS has evolved over four decades to become a leading healthcare institution providing essential medical services to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, they said, in the memorandum.
The institute's bed capacity has increased significantly to 1250 beds, which includes a 129-bedded maternity hospital.
Recognized as one of the top medical institutions in the country, it stands second only to PGI Chandigarh in the Northern region of India.
SKIMS has not only excelled in patient care but also in research and training, offering a range of undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral courses, and hosting national and international conferences.
"However, despite its achievements, the recent decision to divest SKIMS of its autonomous status has resulted in adverse effects on its decision-making process. The most pressing concern is the severe staffing deficit, with hundreds of medical, paramedic, and administrative positions lying vacant. The recruitment process has been stalled for the last seven years, leading to a 50 percent shortage of all technical and nursing staff. As of the current date, 1201 posts, including 115 faculty positions, 149 Gazetted posts, 870 Non-Gazetted posts, and 67 Senior and Junior Resident positions remain unfilled," read the memorandum.
Apart from staffing challenges, SKIMS also faces obstacles due to inadequate infrastructure and funding. Essential medical equipment such as CT scan machines and MRI machines are either non-functional or insufficient, hindering the provision of proper care to patients.
Notably, the absence of a Linear Accelerator, a critical device for administering radiation to cancer patients, is a significant concern.
Additionally, financial constraints have hampered the advancement of robotic surgery at the institute. With around 70 percent of the annual budget being spent on salaries, there is limited room for development.
The memorandum highlights that not only SKIMS but other premier hospitals in the region, such as SMHS in Srinagar and Children’s Hospital in Bemina, are facing similar issues with vacant positions and infrastructural deficiencies. The Bone and Joint Hospital in Barzulla, the only such hospital in Kashmir, suffered fire damage to its top floor in 2022. Despite ongoing construction work on a 120-bedded block funded by the World Bank, delays have hindered its completion, affecting patient care.
Moreover, district-level hospitals across Jammu and Kashmir face comparable challenges, with a lack of radiotherapy facilities forcing cancer patients to seek treatment in distant locations, incurring higher costs and hardships. The overall shortage of manpower puts additional strain on the existing staff, raising concerns about the quality of care provided to patients.
In light of these critical issues, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Dr Mehboob Beg and M.Y. Tarigami urged the Lt. Governor to address the staffing and infrastructural deficits on a fast track basis, ensuring the seamless functioning of SKIMS and other premier hospitals in Jammu and Kashmir. The well-being of the people of the region relies on the timely and effective resolution of these pressing concerns, they said.