At Kashmir’s premier healthcare institute, Sher-e-Kashmir Institute Medical Sciences (SKIMS), around 44 percent of faculty positions are vacant, hitting the healthcare delivery badly.
In the past few years, these vacant faculty positions, which have grown in number, have been advertised many times, as per an official document. However, the process to fill up the posts has lingered on resulting in a shortage of 43.85 percent faculty positions.
Out of 285 faculty positions, only 160 are in position while 125 are vacant in different departments.
The institute was conceived as tertiary-care health institute for J&K, meant to deliver state-of-art treatment facilities as well as leading institution in terms of medical research. However, over the years, lack of up gradation of facilities and manpower have rendered a blow to specialty services at the Institute, a senior doctor at SKIMS said.
Example this: SKIMS houses the only hematology division in Kashmir, and was expected to provide leading role in delivery of care in disorders related to blood such as leukemia, myeloma, other blood cancers and bleeding disorders .
However, 9 of 12 faculty positions in various departments of the division are vacant. In the department of blood transfusion, none of the four faculty positions have been filled after they fell vacant. In hematology laboratory, none out of the available two positions is in position. In departments of clinical hematology and pediatric hematology, half of the faculty positions are vacant, as per an official document.
It reveals that the scenario was pervasive across various other departments, crucial for delivering efficient specialty patient services.
A liver transplant unit was set up at the Institute to provide a much needed facility for hundreds of patients with terminal liver diseases. However, data shows that the unit has not taken off and none of its five faculty positions have been filled.
Rheumatology is another department where dearth of faculty has hit services. Being the only exclusive rheumatology department in Kashmir, it was expected to provide specialized services for hundreds of patients. However, all four of the created faculty positions in this department are vacant.
In department of clinical biochemistry, six of the seven faculty positions are vacant, rendering a jolt to a service required by all other departments.
In department of medical oncology, which houses the only composite cancer center of Kashmir, five out of the eight faculty positions are vacant. In its allied nuclear medicine department, six out of the seven faculty positions are vacant.
Other departments that face gross shortage of faculty include emergency medicine, reproductive medicine, respiratory medicine, pediatric surgery, nephrology, neurology and radio-physics.
The data about the dearth of the faculty has been provided by the institute in response to an RTI application that was filed by activist MM Shuja. The response says that all vacant positions stand advertised.
A professor at one of the departments said the dearth of faculty had affected not only patient care but medical education at the Institute as well.
“We have bare minimum manpower in terms of faculty in many departments,” he said adding that in many cases the advertisements were shown to the medical education regulatory body to prevent de-recognition.
“The Institute has often hid its failures behind advertisements when MCI asks about the faculty shortage. However, it is a fact that we have not been able to redress the issue,” he said.
Director SKIMS Prof Omar Javaid Shah said that screening of applications received in response to advertisements was going on. “We are hoping to fill the vacancies soon,” he said.