SKIMS symbolizes healthcare disaster

Villages around Hokersar face inundation threat

Panic-stricken patients make beeline at Kashmir’s only super-speciality hospital

Enter the gates of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura, a tertiary-care hospital, you see a flood of visibly panic-struck people rushing in and out.

Over the past two weeks, which saw a devastating flood annihilate more than 280 people and damage healthcare infrastructure to the tune of Rs 100 crore, the patient arrivals at this hospital have increased manifold.

This is literally the only tangible health centre in the devastated summer capital catering to a patient flow which according to officials is much higher than what its capacity is.

Other hospitals in Srinagar not only continue to wear a deserted look but also a horrible appearance. The sludge and carcasses of animals stuck here and there emanate putrid smell and those seen cleaning parts of the buildings wore masks to ward off infection.

“There has been a threefold increase in the number of patients including emergency cases visiting the hospital since the devastating floods inundated the valley,” said Dr Showkat Zargar, head of SKIMS.

Accommodating patients with maternity related issues, he said, was a major challenge for officials.

The hospital administration later converted a 24-bedded ward for maternity care.

In the vicinity of the hospital, an educational institution, Government Girls High School Soura, was also converted into a mini hospital which, for days, catered to about 100 patients.

And while rest of the hospitals were deluged in September 7 flood, SKIMS was the only hope for patients. The only Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine functioning in Kashmir right now is at SKIMS.

Yet it is showing signs of weakness, having become overburdened beyond its capacity and less medicos in place to cater to an entire patient load.

Even, according to Dr Zargar, medicines available in the institution are depleting at a fast pace.

In the hospital, no patient or attendant desires to talk about what they went through all these days. There is sadness in their eyes and on the faces.

Healthcare experts and officials said damage to the healthcare infrastructure is massive and that it would take more than four months to restore what has got defunct due to the floods.

“If the response is quick, it will take not less than four months to put back on track the machinery and other infrastructure devastated by the floods,” Dr Zargar said.

An official in the State’s Health Ministry said Rs 100 crore damage to medical equipments have taken place in the affected hospitals and that government was trying to restore the services.

The Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK), a leading body of medicos, put the damage to healthcare infrastructure in crores and blamed government for the loss.

“Government failed on every front,” said the association’s president Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan. “It didn’t predict the catastrophe in the first instance. It was not prepared to deal with the situation and then didn’t rescue people at all.”

Because of the healthcare’s collapse, he said, patients across Kashmir will suffer for months together. “Government,” the DAK president said, “is wholly responsible for all this.”