After a delay of over 14 years, Kashmir will finally have a full-fledged hospital for children.
This became possible after the State Administrative Council (SAC) approved allocation of the entire bed-capacity of the under-construction hospital at Bemina for pediatric use.
“Sanction is hereby accorded to conversion of whole complex of 200-bedded maternity hospital and 300-bedded pediatric hospital at Bemina Srinagar into a full-fledged children hospital,” reads an order issued by State Health and Medical Education Department today.
The order was issued following the decision of SAC on 29 May, in this regard.
The allocation of entire space of the under-construction hospital at Bemina for pediatric use had been proposed by the Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar several times in the past in view of the gross shortage of available space for pediatric healthcare needs in Kashmir.
Currently, the “ill-planned” GB Pant Hospital, where the Children Hospital had been shifted “temporarily” from Hazuri Bagh in 2005, is unable to suffice the needs of 30 lakh pediatric population of Kashmir, forcing doctors to admit two or more patients on one bed or crib.
In addition, the space shortage has also halted development of pediatric specialties such as pediatric ophthalmology, pediatric surgery, pediatric psychiatry and others.
Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education, Atal Dulloo said that the decision was taken considering the “impending need for pediatric hospital in Kashmir”.
He said that conversion of the space of the hospital, which was originally conceived as a Government of India- funded maternity hospital, had been “discussed and deliberated” upon with Union Health Ministry. “We have adequate funding for the hospital and we expect the civil works to get completed by end of this year,” he said.
He added that work on recruitment of additional manpower and procurement of equipment would be carried out simultaneously.
Prof Kaiser Ahmed, Principal GMC Srinagar and head of Pediatrics Department of the College, termed the decision a “milestone” for the healthcare in Kashmir.
“There was a dire need for a full-fledged pediatric hospital in Kashmir and Government has recognized and addressed it,” he said. He said that a team of pediatric specialists and engineers was being constituted to frame a plan for conversion of the space.
“We would just need the ground floor to be re-worked,” he said adding that the work would now be expedited given the “clear path ahead” for the facility. He said that the hospital will be developed as Institute of Pediatric Health and will have all specialties needed for pediatric healthcare needs under one roof.
The fate of the pediatric hospital has been in limbo for a long time and frequent change of plans marred any progress on the facility for the past one decade, a senior healthcare administrator said. He said that while a “good children hospital” existed at Hazuri Bagh till 2005, the space was given to Lal Ded Hospital and a 150-bedded space at Sonwar allocated to pediatrics, the arrangement termed “temporary” by the then government.
However, till 2012, no work was carried out on constructing a new pediatric hospital. Following the crisis when over 500 infants died at GB Pant Hospital, a government panel recommended immediate construction of a well-equipped hospital.
In October 2014, Omar Abdullah government approved construction of pediatric hospital at Dewan Bagh Srinagar. A year later, Mufti Sayeed government approved construction of a 200-bedded Pediatric Hospital within the upcoming Maternity Hospital at Bemina.