Just one doctor is available for 3,000 persons in Jammu and Kashmir, an official report by union health ministry has revealed.
The latest report by the ministry shows how the low doctor-to-patient ratio poses an impediment in delivery of quality healthcare even as authorities continue to defer filling up of hundreds of vacant posts of doctors.
The National Health Profile 2018, released by Central Board of Health Intelligence (CBHI), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has confirmed that J&K faces a challenge in terms of healthcare delivery due to low doctor-to-patient ratio.
As per this report, one doctor serves 3060 people in this state, way above recommended 1 doctor for 1000 people.
Government had stated in the assembly in 2016 that one doctor is available for 2000 people in J&K. However, that year Greater Kashmir did a series of stories exposing that actual number of doctors available to work in the field was much lower than their strength on the paper.
The shortage is further accentuated in the rural areas as a good number of medical staff recruited for peripheral healthcare is being posted in urban health institutions.
As per the CBHI, 14326 allopathic doctors are registered in J&K. In addition, there are 5823 AYUSH doctors employed in J&K apart from 1973 dental surgeons. The population of J&K as per 2011 Census is 1.25 Cr.
For long, Kashmir has been grappling with shortage of doctors at all levels. Although, at the beginning of this year, government announced the selection list of 371 medical officers, meant to serve in the rural areas, these doctors are yet to be posted.
The sanctioned strength of doctors under directorate of health services Kashmir (DHSK) is over 1900 including medical officers and consultants. On ground, however less than 900 doctors are available in rural hospitals against the posts of 1481 doctors with the DHSK, the sole healthcare provider in rural Kashmir including Ladakh. The remaining of the available doctors are either deputed or engaged with other institutions/departments in Srinagar.
In Government Medical College Srinagar and Jammu, 147 vacancies of faculty have remained unfilled for years, with government being inactive on bifurcation of seniority of the two medical colleges. The delay has resulted in public service commission disagreeing to filling of these posts.
The shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas is a cause of concern, officials in health sector said. "Each doctor is expected to see hundreds of patients each day in OPDs of hospitals, this deteriorates the quality of diagnosis and treatment," a senior health official said. He added that the doctor shortage was a major impediment in making maternity services available round the clock in most hospitals.
A doctor working in SMHS Hospital said, "A doctor is able to spend a couple of minutes with each patient. That is the quality of care we have for our patients," he said.