Fill the gaps in health sector

Due to shortage of doctors in urban and rural areas, patient care has badly suffered
"The system exists right now in J&K is medico friendly, but patient adversely."
"The system exists right now in J&K is medico friendly, but patient adversely."Special arrangement

Health Sector is one of the important sectors of J&K which too has  suffered during the  period of  turmoil. During the period of  militancy prominent  doctors  and consultants left the Valley. As  the  situation  improved,  this  sector  witnessed a  sharp surge in  Private Sector.

This sector has proved lucrative for the doctors practising in private hospitals and nursing homes as well as benefiting from Pharma companies operating in J&K.

This sector has emerged as a commercial one than professional. Maximum doctors practising in private sector are prescribing unnecessary investigations that too with advisory to patients to conduct the same on particular diagnostic centres and labs which in return pay hefty commission and gifts.

Administration has failed to curb this malpractice and now the poor patients also have learnt to live with the system. The system exists right now in J&K is medico friendly, but patient adversely.

If work culture of doctors in government hospitals would have been satisfactory then there was no compulsion for patients to move for private hospitals and nursing homes for treatment.

Doctors posted in government hospitals use their place of posting as “Brand” to practice in private hospitals and nursing homes. A doctor practicing in private hospitals can be seen very punctual when he starts his OPD/Surgery at 6.00 am, but even after taking huge salary and other perks from Government, these doctors are not available in government hospitals even at 10.00 am.

The question here arises that why the patient care and facilities in government hospitals is not satisfactory; thus leaving no option for poor patients to approach private hospitals and nursing homes. Pre-Abrogation of Article-370, Ladakh was a part of J&K State.

In Ladakh there is no private hospital and the people living in this far flung region are getting better facilities in government hospitals. Doctors posted in government hospitals have never encouraged the private practice, that is why though some people have initiated to establish private hospitals in the territory but due to poor response of patients they could not succeed.

While visiting some hospitals and PHCs in Leh District I witnessed the doctors and para-medical staff very attentive towards patients. I found empathy between doctors and patients.

A territory which remains cut-off during winter has succeeded to maintain impeccable system in government health centres for the betterment of patient care.

Even after 4.00 pm, doctors were available in OPD happily doing their professional duties while as our doctors in government hospitals get irritated if a senior citizen asks twice about the medicine and prescription; reason is simple.

The doctors practicing in government hospitals start private practise in early hours, even performing surgeries; they get exhausted and thus often lose patience during duty hours in government hospitals.

The other reason is the huge rush in government hospitals, and the shortage of doctors and para-medical staff in almost all hospitals, PHCs, Sub-District hospitals etc.

When I filed an RTI in Directorate of Health Services Kashmir, replies filed by respective CMOs, BMOs and Medical Superintendents are revealing. In Srinagar city there are two hospitals in Downtown Srinagar, namely JLNM-Rainawari, and Gousia Hospital Khanyar.

There has been witnessed a huge rush of patients in OPD/IPD, but these two Hospitals have shortage of doctors and para-medical staff. The situation is worst in far flung areas of Valley like Kupwara, Karnah, Machil and few hilly areas of South Kashmir where there is acute shortage of doctors, nurses and other para-medical staff as per RTI reply filed by concerned BMOs.

During emergency and accidents in Kashmir Valley there is lone territory care hospital namely Sher e Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura. Patients not only from Srinagar City but from other District Headquarters, as well as from Pir Panjal and Chinab valley report daily for consultation as well as for specialised treatment.

This hospital is also facing shortage of staff which gives tough time to patients waiting in long queues outside the chambers of doctors. In J&K there is alarming rise in heart attack cases and during past couple of months, dozens of young people have died due to cardiac arrest.

In such situation the hospitals, PHCs and other dispensaries should be equipped with modern infrastructures as well as availability of doctors and para-medical 24*7.

Report of deficiency of doctors is in Jammu region also, as per my RTI application, reply  filed by Government Medical College Jammu vide their Letter No: MS/SSH/AD/RTI/2023/208-209 Dated: 19-01-2023 reveals that Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Registrar, Lecturer and forty-seven Posts of Assistant Surgeon are lying vacant in Government Medical College Jammu. The deficiency impacts patient care as well as health system in the UT of J&K.

There is an association of doctors in Kashmir valley called DAK. In past they have raised an issue to ban private practise of doctors but doctors working in J&K are divided on the issue. There is no consensus on the issue as majority of doctors are in favour of private practise, as they are earning huge sums by in private sector.

To ban or not to ban is an issue for which administration has to take the decision. But simultaneously it is the ethical and professional responsibility of doctors association to raise the issue of deficiency of doctors and para-medical staff in government hospitals.

Due to shortage of doctors in urban and rural areas, patient care has badly suffered and no official of the department can deny it. The matter of punctuality of doctors is also an important issue and attachment of doctors from Rural to Urban areas by using different methods should also be taken at an administrative level.

J&K is under Lieutenant Governor’s (LG) rule. Several steps to improve patient care in health sector has been taken. The government has introduced Golden Health Card Scheme under Ayushman Bharat. The health scheme has widely been appreciated by all sections of society.

Thousands of patients have benefited and the process continues. While talking to many patients, they have appreciated the LG administration for initiating the scheme but simultaneously have demanded to avoid the riders in the scheme.

The scheme covers health insurance upto 5 Lakh but on the other side dialysis and chemo patients have to pay fifty percent of their treatment during procedures. A dialysis patient has to pay around 2200/Rs per dialysis while as only 1100/- is covered under the scheme which earlier was 1600/-.

Administration should take effective and time bound measures to fill the vacancies of doctors and para-medical staff in all government hospitals, sub-district hospitals, PHCs and other health centres. A proper monitoring system in hospitals for better patient care is the need of hour.

All hospitals, and PHCs should be equipped with modern machinery to deal with any situation. Better health care facilities in private sector is appreciable but everyone can’t afford it.

So it is the prime responsibility of the Department of Health and Medical Education to upgrade the facilities in all government hospitals and make it convenient for general public as it is their fundamental right.

The author is a Senior Journalist, Human Rights and RTI Activist

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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