Anantnag: The sole Maternity and Child Care Hospital (MCCH) in south Kashmir exposes pregnant women and newborns to life-threatening diseases.
The reason is that the operation theatre of the facility, which was upgraded to the Associated Hospital of Government Medical College (GMC) Anantnag in 2018, is still functioning without proper hygiene measures.
"Both doctors and patients are compelled to use old linen that was procured by the hospital administration years ago. This worn-out uniform is not even autoclaved, thereby exposing them to various infections,” said a medic. The operation theatre also lacks a proper waste disposal mechanism.
“Waste material segregation is crucial to prevent the spread of infections like Hepatitis C and HIV. However, here, materials such as gauze, plastic, sharp objects, and general waste are often dumped into the same bin and later collected by sweepers,” the medic said.
In an ideal setup, the scrub station should be positioned outside the theatre. However, in this case, it is placed inside.
Moreover, the two sinks provided are not cleaned and stink.
“The linen used to cover pregnant women and newborns are outdated, insufficient, and not sterilized,” said another medic.
Disposable linen should have been available, but it is not the case here.
“There is only one washing machine in the hospital laundry,” the medic said. “Surgical instruments used during procedures are outdated and should have been replaced, but due to limited options, doctors are forced to use them during surgeries."
The hospital has been without necessary surgical supplies for the past eight months.
"Even cerviprime gel, used to induce labour pain, is not available," the medic said.
"The anesthetists lack proper workstations, including self-ventilation facilities, and are compelled to rely on outdated anesthesia machines," he said.
The operation tables, supposed to be multipurpose for patient comfort, are old and rusty.
"Only one routine table is available three days a week, and there are only two emergency tables despite a high number of patients," said a healthcare worker.
Ideally, there should be three emergency tables and at least four routine Operation Theatre (OT) tables six days a week.
"Patient privacy is compromised as the two emergency tables are placed next to each other," a medic said.
Accessing the theatre requires navigating through multiple barriers, which is not the case here.
Attendees and paramedics are often seen wandering inside without restrictions.
To worsen matters, the hospital uses a gas heater during winters and fans during summers in the theatre.
"Inadequate ventilation in the wards leaves patients suffocating," a medic said.
Principal of GMC Anantnag, Dr Anjum Farhana who recently took charge of the hospital acknowledged lack of basic infrastructure in the hospital.
"After my recent visit to the hospital, I have taken note of all the issues. Improving hospital hygiene is my top priority," Dr Farhana said.
She assured that orders for procuring linens, surgical materials, and other necessities were in progress.
The hospital's inadequate space has long hindered its functionality.
Situated in an old, deteriorating building in the crowded Sherbagh locality, the hospital serves not only south Kashmir but also Chenab and Pir Panjal valleys.
With just 40 beds, the hospital's Out-patient Department (OPD) caters to an average of over 40,000 patients monthly while around 7000 patients are admitted indoors.
The overcrowding has led to patients sharing beds, and beds have even been placed in corridors due to the lack of space.
This space crunch severely affects patient care, often necessitating the unnecessary referral of pregnant women and children to hospitals in Srinagar.
The hospital has also been in the news for maternal deaths.
In February 2017, the government approved the takeover of the Rehmat-e-Alam Hospital building situated along the K P Road by the Health and Medical Education Department along with its assets and liabilities.
Despite the administrative approval, the shifting has been repeatedly delayed since its initiation in 2015.