Providing access to healthcare especially during winters in hard-to-reach areas of Kashmir is still a major challenge for the government in 2023 as well.
The hospitals set up in these areas have shortage of specialists, health professionals and transportation. Rural residents often encounter barriers and suffer due to poor healthcare facilities.
Some examples are Gurez, Karnah, Tangdhar, PoruKalnag village in Kokernag and other far-off areas which remain cut-off from Kashmir due to heavy snowfall and life comes to a standstill. In this season, providing the basic health services to the local populace in these hard-to-reach areas is a major concern.
CHCs in these far-flung areas have no gynaecologists, theatres, manpower, radiologists and blood banks. One example is CHC Dawar hospital in the Gurez valley.
Even doctors who are posted by administration conduct deliveries at the hospital. Even Medical officers do USG of pregnant ladies. Gurez Valley remains cut-off for at least six months following heavy snowfall and the Bandipora-Gurez road’s closure plunges the valley into misery for want of basic amenities and proper healthcare.
Recently, Army personnel airlifted a pregnant woman from snow-covered Tangdhar in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. The lady was admitted to a sub-district hospital in Tangdhar but later developed severe complications due to which she needed to be shifted for advanced treatment to mainland Kupwara. Cases like these are not rare, many such expecting mothers face difficulties in these areas during winters.
In these tough times, providing basic health services to patients is challenging.
With the roadways blocked and communication lines down, it becomes impossible for residents to access hospitals and clinics. This leaves them with no choice but to rely on traditional methods of treatment or self-medicate, which can lead to serious health complications.
Access to healthcare is a complex issue that involves multiple factors. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of addressing this challenge, as it has made it even more difficult to ensure that everyone has access to the healthcare they need.
Some aspects of access, such as making healthcare services culturally appropriate and acceptable, are not easy to measure but are important to consider in order to effectively address the issue of healthcare access.
Ensuring that healthcare services are both acceptable and appropriate to the patient is an important aspect of access that goes beyond just measuring physical availability of healthcare facilities.
These dimensions of access are closely linked to a patient’s willingness to use healthcare services and the alignment of those services with their unique needs.
This is particularly relevant in rural areas, where a combination of structural barriers such as distance and lack of transportation, can make accessing healthcare more challenging. Therefore, it is crucial to specifically examine the healthcare access barriers in rural areas to identify the root causes and develop effective solutions.
Despite taking several measures to tackle this issue like providing emergency medical supplies to the affected areas. All the efforts are in vain as these efforts have been inadequate in addressing the healthcare needs of the residents of hard-to-reach areas. Even doctors including gynaecologists are not ready to work in far flung areas.
It is important to note that the residents of Gurez and Karnah are not the only ones affected by this issue. Many other remote and mountainous regions in Kashmir face similar problems during the winter months. Therefore, it is essential that the government takes comprehensive and sustainable measures to address the lack of healthcare facilities in these areas.
One solution to this problem could be the establishment of advanced healthcare facilities where every surgery can be done with expert doctors posted there. This would ensure that residents have access to medical care, even during the winter months when the area is cut off. Additionally, investing in better infrastructure such as all-weather roads and communication lines would greatly improve the situation.
Another solution could be to make arrangements for airlifting of emergency medical supplies and patients in case of emergency.
It is worth to mention that hundreds of posts of doctors, Block Health Workers, Health Inspector, Junior Theatre tech, Junior Pharmacist, Health and Family welfare assistant, FMPHW’s, MMPHW’s, Junior Grade Nurse, X-Ray Tech, Junior Ophthalmic technician, Junior Dental technician, Health Educator, Supervisory Pharmacist among others are lying vacant in different hospitals of Kashmir. Government needs to fill these vacancies, so that people won’t suffer.
To address this issue and guarantee that locals have access to healthcare, especially throughout the winter, stronger infrastructure and permanent healthcare facilities are required. Besides that, the government should provide adequate medical staff, equipment, and supplies to these healthcare facilities to ensure they are able to provide necessary care.
Secondly, administration needs to develop and implement strategies to improve transportation and communication infrastructure in these areas, making it easier for healthcare providers to reach patients and for patients to access healthcare services.
Moreover, it needs to be ensured that the healthcare facilities in the hard-to-reach areas are equipped with backup power supply and heating systems to ensure continuity of service during power cuts.
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.