A Model Wasted

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Deep down south, the government invested heavily in creating a model health centre. As it is waiting for inauguration, part of the precious equipment has expired being used even once, in the last three years. Umar Khurshid tells the story of a fraud that cost healthcare heavily in a remote belt

A girl walks outside deserted Dooru hospital building. KL Image by Shah Hilal

A girl walks outside deserted Dooru hospital building. KL Image by Shah Hilal

Every morning, as Muzaffar Khan, 25, reaches Model Hospital Dooru in Anantnag periphery, he reduces the crowd at the main entrance by permitting patients requiring CT scan and Ultrasound scrutiny only. “Rest of them are advised to visit the sub-district hospital in town’s main Chowk,” Khan said.

Khan is Chowkidar of the Modern Hospital since the days building was coming up, more than five years ago. Since 9 am, Khan starts enquiring about the requirements of the patients, a process that continues until late in the evening.

“In a single day, there are around hundred patients who leave without being treated, as the hospital with the availability of highly-monitoring pieces of equipment and newly initiated facilities, lacks the staff,” a disappointed Khan said.

In 2010, the government decided to have two Model hospitals in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, one at Basholi and another in Dooru. Envisaging the best machinery that the district hospital set-ups lack, these were experiments to help improve the rural healthcare.

Construction started quickly and by 2016, the Model Hospital was ready for a house-warming. Apart from a gynaecological theatre (labour room, stabilizing room and the two wards), two general surgery theatres, post-operative, with advanced monitoring equipments, the Model Hospital has a modern biochemistry analyzer that can manage 200 samplers at a time, a CRM, a blood storage bank quipped with highly advanced level machines, CT Scan and ultrasound. “It is almost 5-bedded single building hospital that has the best electric systems and air conditioning,” one senior officer who was associated with its construction said. “It values more than Rs 25 crore and has the best parking space and immensely landscaped area.” There is an ophthalmological theatre and a dental section as well. It even has a refrigerated mortuary with 4-body capacity.

The officer said some of the facilities at this modern sub-district hospital are still not available to various district hospitals like in Kupwara, Budgam, Ganderbal and even Srinagar.

The belt, however, has already a sub-district hospital. Residents said this facility is older than the Treaty of Amritsar and goes back to late Pathan era. Currently a sub-district hospital, it has 30-beds and operates from four small buildings. Nobody is admitted to the hospital. A senior official said it is shabby, dark and a run-down facility. What is interesting is that the two facilities are slightly more than 500 meters apart.

In 2016, when the health department was readying to shift the staff from the old premises to the Modern Hospital, a section of the residents agitated about the move and went against the government decision.

No patients outside even IPD block. KL Image by Shah Hilal

No patients outside even IPD block. KL Image by Shah Hilal

“Now, the tussle is between the department and the local residents, however, the town’s Trade community, Awqaf committee and civil societies are supporting the public demand,” said Masood Ahmed Boda, President Trade Union Dooru Shahbad.

Boda is personally against the idea of shifting. “Shifting of the staff means closing down of the old facility, that we would never allow the department to do,” Boda said. The sections averse to shifting involved their then MLA Farooq Andrabi. “He guaranteed us full support and said there will be separate staff for both the hospitals.”

But the government continued with its plans. When Chief Medical Officer Anantnag visited the new facility for planning inauguration, a gathering of locals including women and children staged a protest outside the hospital and disrupted a meeting. “We are against the relocation of the sub-district hospital,” said a local resident.

With shifting stalled, the same residents visited the then Director and got a few technicians appointed to operate the costly machinery. Boda said, Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman, the then director immediately, ordered the deployment of six technicians. Boda said they were assured of the new hospital operating – without disrupting the old one, only if the foundation stone carried the name of Mufti Sayeed. Boda said they had no objection. Well before Rehman would keep his word, he was shifted.

Boda said when they saw nobody helping them they approached the court and put a legal stay on the Model Hospital in 2019. “Since then there is a dispute and people are continuously suffering for no reason at all,” he said.

The situation is that while the old hospital is crowded, the most modern facility is deserted. Quite a few of them visit it for some tests. The new hospital is well-maintained, clean with proper flooring and advanced machinery.

In the entire three-storey building, there are only two rooms used by the staff members. The two small cabins are occupied by three doctors, two technicians in radiology section, a receptionist who provides the prescriptions and a helper who assists technicians at USG section.

Hospital managers said the doctors operate the patients’ in the new facility in emergency situations when there is no chance of referring them to Anantnag or Srinagar. “Yesterday a patient from a far-off village had a fall leading to a severe injury. We treated him here only, as sending him outside would not have been a good idea,” said Dr Muiez, operating from one of the two cabins. Muiez travels from Srinagar daily to attend his duty at Dooru’s Model Hospital.

Despite innumerable facilities, the hospital only does a handful of tests like CT scan and Ultrasound. “The tussle between the locals and the government is making patients suffer unnecessarily,” said Fayaz Ahmed, 42, a technician operating at CT scan cabin. “The move is so unfair though.”

Not using machinery has its own costs, some of the equipment are approaching expiry dates. “Most of the machines at this health facility have run out of their expiry dates without even being used for a single time,” said, Dr Bilal Bashir, 53, a senior consultant surgeon at sub-district hospital Dooru. Had the hospital been permitted to function, he believes it would have catered to a huge patient influx from Kishtwar and Banihal in addition to its own catchment area. “Sometimes, to cope up with the rush, we get patients’ from Anantnag town also.”

A hospital official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that lights of theatres are not functioning properly and would require replacements.

“The case is in the court and I will wait for the verdict,” Dr Rafi Salati, 52, who serves as Superintendent at Sub-district hospital Shahbad Dooru, said. “If there is an order to shift, we will shift in an hour. We don’t have any objection.”

As the twin hospitals operate on court orders, it has huge costs for the patients. Patients are travelling out of the Shahbad valley to Srinagar for facilities which they have at their doorsteps at a fraction of the cost.

CT Scan machine but no patients. KL Image by Shah Hilal

CT Scan machine but no patients. KL Image by Shah Hilal

Awaiting court decision, the residents are frightened over the shift order. A resident, Lateef Ahmad, 26, said the main market depends on the hospital. This, he said, includes most of the flea market that operates outside the hospital. That is exactly what a senior officer in the health department said. “It is a section of the traders who are blackmailing the government and the local population,” the officer said. “They see the shifting would make them reinvest in creating the same facility closer to the new hospital. But this is proving very costly to the people.”

The officer said the buildings currently occupied by the old hospital can be used by shifting the nursing School – operating from Anantnag – to Dooru. He said the politicians are unable to make residents understand that a vacant building will bring in a new facility and the use of modern hospital will bring in more business.

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