Baby’s Health Out!

Bashir Mir

The healthcare scenario in Kashmir does not exude much confidence either in the patients or the medical fraternity itself. From primary to tertiary healthcare it is the story of too little infrastructure, overworked doctors or doctors posted in places where even the basic diagnostic tools are not available. It could not be more mismanaged.

The state of primary health centers and allopathic dispensaries does not demand much explanation as these don’t have the requisite wherewithal to treat or even diagnose diseases beyond common cold and cough. Besides, there is a complete lack of sense of proportion; some will say common sense too, in the deployment of doctors. Surgeons can be seen posted in hospitals that don’t even have minor operation theaters.  There are hospitals with a doctor’s strength of 26, which get less than 200 patients a day, and there are hospitals which receive 1200 patients every day and have only 12 doctors. The disproportionate deployment of the nursing and the paramedical staff can be well imagined.

What Kashmir has to show for real tertiary medical care is the SKIMS only. In Kashmir’s only such hospital resident doctors and senior residents are made to work 36-hour shifts. Well that leaves us with the specialty hospitals like Bone and Joints Hospital and the GB Panth children’s hospital besides the too busy SMHS hospitals.

Ask any government official or a minister he or she will say how much they are spending on healthcare in Kashmir and claim that everything is hunky-dory with our healthcare system. They always live in denial. Until some tragedy strikes the hapless people here.

The GB Panth children’s hospital has been in the news for the last two months now because of the unusually high number of infant deaths in this valley’s only specialty childcare hospital. Ironically, the state government has been too slow to react. They even came out with the ‘statistics’ claiming that the high mortality rates were normal and below the national average. The words like ‘even one death is a tragedy’ came much later from bureaucrats only. The sharp media attention the news attracted did not seem to bother the government until it appeared that it may trigger a crisis with people taking to streets.

Anyway, it is no rocket science to understand that 200 odd beds and five ventilators for a population of six million with a large number of them being children is atrociously insufficient.  The hospital even receives patients from as far as Banihal. A routine scene at the hospital would be more than one patient on a single bed.

When the hospital was shifted to its present location from the Valley’s major maternity and gynecological hospital, Lal Ded, in 2005 it should have come with more beds for the patients. However, the new hospital had five beds less than the older one. Complete absence of commonsense!

When the hospital was shifted to Badami Bagh the state health ministry had announced to construct a 400-bed children’s hospital at Bemina. However, until now no such thing has happened. What is the government waiting for? Another tragedy perhaps – a bigger one? The chief minister claims to set things right at the hospital within 10 days. We wish he had spared some time earlier. It would have saved a lot of Kashmir’s children.


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