Health Care Needs Check-Up in Kashmir
By Adil Akhzer *
Kashmir once again is making to the news headlines. More than 350 babies have died till now and death spree continues (363 was the last number). The reason for the deaths as given by the authorities is that the “hospital does not have sufficient machinery to save children’s life.” Rattled by the incident, State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has removed Hospital Superintendent terming his as “incompetent.” He has also ordered recruitment of new employees and has asked the hospital to purchase new ventilators. However, behind all these adhoc measures lurks a pertinent question as to whether Kashmir has a proper health care system in place or not?
No, would be a definite answer. The G.B. Pant hospital is the not the only hospital which is facing this kind of problem. A visit to any government hospital in the Valley would convince the visitor of the pathetic situation of health care system in Kashmir. Talk to the attendants of the patients, who are admitted in the various government hospitals of Valley and you would wonder whether the government is really concerned about delivering health care services to the Valleyites.
It was only after hue and cry in the media and after facing severe criticism from the masses that the State government gave away an impression as if it was acting tough and it took some steps to show that it was serious and concerned about the lives of the people. However, the government needs to realise that there is a need to open more hospitals in the Valley. Take an example of SKIMS, where most patients die because there are no proper facilities and most cannot afford to go hospitals outside the Valley.
A sustained proper health care system is the need of the hour for the Valley.There are only few private hospitals in the Valley, which organise regular medical camps by inviting doctors and medical experts from other parts of the country. Ironically, it should have been the State government initiating such steps. But beyond mere lip service, the State government has not shown any concern for proper health services in the Valley.
Furthermore, not only the mainstream politicians, but also the separatist leadership has a duty to pressurise the government for introducing proper health care services in the Valley. If it claims to be the true representatives of the Kashmiris, it needs to show its concern with the matter. Unfortunately, the ‘VIP culture’ prevalent in the rest of India, has plagued Kashmir too where top politicians whether mainstream or separatist, are able to take advantage of the best of the medical services on offer in India, leaving an ordinary Kashmiri in lurch and at the hands of the pathetic medical services in the Valley.
Ordering transfers and pressuring doctors is not going to save the system. We cannot blame doctors only for this tragedy. How can a small number of doctors attend to the problem of thousands of the patients who visit on a daily basis to this hospital? Government doctors are accused of not working properly, but the important question to ask, is why this type of problem is with Valley based doctors only? Outside the state, there are also government hospitals and doctors, and in many cases it has been said that people in most states prefer government hospitals over private doctors. The difference between Kashmir and other states is that in other states they have people who continuously work to make health sector better advanced. This is usually not the case in the Valley.
After the recent incidents at the G.B. Pant hospital, the local media took up the issue proactively. A continuous reportage by the Kashmir’s leading newspapers, played an important role which forced the State government to act. Pertinently, so far Government has always ignored media reports, and till now had not paid any heed to these reports. This author has continuously read about this kind of reportage since 2010, but it is only now that the State government has acted upon the deficiencies pointed out by these media reports. Had the government acted earlier in earnest, many precious lives could have been saved.
The gimmick of paying visits to the hospitals and then blaming each other- an art mastered by many politicians of the Valley- is not going to serve any purpose. While one can understand about other politicians, it is indeed tragic to read that even J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had been ignorant about the miserable conditions of the government hospitals in the Valley. One would have assumed that as a leader who claims to have known pulse of the people, he would have been aware of such issues. He could have accordingly pressed the Central government to allocate more funds for improving the health care services in the Valley, especially when former J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad himself is the Union Health Minister. Time has indeed come that he acts practically and solves the problems afflicting the healthcare services in the Valley. While Ghulam Nabi Azad has claimed that his government has extended all kinds of financial assistance to the government hospitals in the Valley, one needs to ask as to where all this claimed financial assistance has gone. Has it been gobbled up by the corrupt elements, of which there is no dearth in the Valley?
While it is true that the rants of the local people and the patients’ protests have been mostly disregarded by the State government, it is hoped that the recent tragedy would wake up the administration from the deep slumber and take real steps towards ensuring better health care services for the Valley because time for the government has come to act, rather than just regret and lament.