In 2017, J&K government took over the possession of Rehmat-I-Alam Hospital from a local trust here to shift the existing Maternity and Child Care Hospital (MCCH) which is housed in an unsafe building in congested Sherbagh locality.
Three years on, the work on Rs 12.12 crore project is far from completion. Worse, the construction has been completely stopped more than a year ago.
Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC), the executing agency had earlier cited paucity of funds and occupation of the under-construction building by security forces as reason for delay in completion of work.
Early this year, former Lieutenant Governor, GC Murmu sanctioned additional Rs nine crore for the project. Later the forces also vacated the building.
During their recent visits, Advisors to the Lt Governor also emphasized upon completion of the pending work and shifting the MCCH Hospital at the earliest.
But JKPCC has now cited pending safety audit as “another excuse” for not been able to take up the work.
“The safety audit of the first two floors of the building which were constructed by the trust before the government took over, has also not been taken yet,” said Deputy General Manager Ghulam Hussain Dar.
He said the Corporation has already paid Rs 21. 30 lakh to IIT Jammu entrusted with the job but they have not visited the site yet.
“We have been repeatedly reminding them to carry the exercise at the earliest, but there has been no response from their side,” Dar said.
He said once the audit report is received, work will be resumed. “We have ample funds at our disposal,” Dar said.
Several health and GMC Anantnag officials put the blame on JKPCC for the slow pace of the work.
“The concessionaire has been quite lethargic in carrying out the work,” said one official.
In February 2017, the then Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti had accorded sanction to taking over of Rehmat-e-Alam Hospital Trust, by Health & Medical Education department, with all its assets and liabilities.
The delay in completion of the hospital and shifting of the MCCH has left both medicos and locals fuming.
“The hospital (MCCH) which caters to entire south Kashmir, Chenab and Pirpanjal is only 40-bedded. On an average more than 40,000 patients visit the hospital in out-patient department (OPD) and we have rush of around 7,000 indoor patients, on monthly basis,” said a doctor.
He said the hospital lacks proper space and remains overcrowded with two to three patients sharing a single bed. Many beds have been put even in the corridor, said the doctor.
He said the existing hospital building has been declared unsafe by the fire and emergency department several years ago.
Another doctor said the situation at the hospital, which is under the administrative control of Government Medical College (GMC), Anantnag, has been so grim that the doctors were forced to refer patients which could be easily treated, to Srinagar hospitals.
“This further burdens tertiary care hospitals in Srinagar,” the doctor said.
He said COVID19 situation has complicated things further with chances of cross-infection among patients. “Three pregnant women have died in the hospital in the past three months. It would not have happened had the hospital been well equipped,” he said.
Principal GMC Anantnag, Dr Showket Jeelani acknowledged that the paucity of space and lack of infrastructure at MCCH Anantnag was hampering patient care.
“We hope that Rehmat-I-Alam building would be handed over to us soon,” he said.
Locals are also aghast over the delay. “The hospital (MCCH) is devoid of proper sanitation and the wards always stink as a result of which there is likelihood of infection,” said Sheikh Aadil, a social activist and a member of Syed-U-Sadat Trust.
He said Sherbagh where the MCCH is located was a congested locality with narrow roads and the area witnesses frequent traffic jams.
“The patients find it difficult to reach to the hospital in time,” he said, adding at times this delay proves costly.