The number of patients visiting the OPDs of rural hospitals in Kashmir has increased from 68.9 lakh in 2010-11 to 1.36 crore in 2016-17, while surgeries conducted in these institutions rose from 1.4 lakh per year to 3.4 lakh per year during the five-year period. However, human resources required to cater to the burgeoning load has not increased proportionately.
Documents accessed by Greater Kashmir show that the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir also registered a jump in the number of deliveries from 58,000 to 81,000 in these five years.
Although the visits of patients to rural health institutions is seen as a positive sign, the shortage of doctors, nurses, para-medic and technical staff is not.
In 2006, eight new—four in Kashmir—were created. However, as per official records, except for the district hospital Kulgam, no new posts were created in the rest.
A source in the DHSK said that in 2003 a few posts had been created for Damhal Hanjipora, Chattergam and some other "upgraded" institutions but the creation was put on hold because the officials couldn't establish that the hospitals in these places had actually been upgraded.
He added that in 2010, 22 posts of A grade specialists, 298 medical officers, 111 consultants and 16 dental surgeons were also created but even these posts fall short of the need that has swelled up over these years.
"For over a decade in 1980s and 1990s, the government did not add required posts to the health services. Then in 2010, a few hundred posts were added but one has to see what was the existing staff strength at that time," the source said.
He said that although the posts of medical officers and others had been filled, the consultants' posts remained vacant, adding to the burden on the specialty service in these hospitals.
When contacted, director health services Dr Saleem ur Rehman accepted that the doctors and other staff in rural hospitals were "stretched beyond limits".
He said, "If we go by the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) it might seem we have adequate staff. But as per the IPHS, we are not supposed to provide advanced and super-specialty services."
He added that people had confidence in rural health services and demanded advanced services and facilities.
"We are trying our best to provide as much as we can with the resources we have," he said.