Band-Aid Tourism

Gulmarg- the prime tourist destination often presented as a model of development for tourism in Kashmir ironically sans a suitable healthcare centre to cater the needs of the tourists and locals. Nazir Ahmad Rather reports the pathetic state of the health services existing in Gulmarg .

Pic: Bilal Bahadur
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

The famous tourist destination of Gulmarg almost lacks everything when it comes to immediate health care. From a simple painkiller to vital lifesaving drugs, one has to travel 16 kilometre long distance to fetch the same from Tangmarg.  The palatial Primary Health Centre at Gulmarg is of no use for the patients who just prefer to come down to Tangmarg for the treatment.
“We have got a good hospital building here but it is worthless. Patients can’t obtain even a simple pain killer here which is quite shocking,” says Abdul Ahad who runs a Dhaba at Gulmarg.
A fair price shop has been sanctioned for the hospital but it has not been started yet. The non –availability of medicine within the hospital premises force the visitors to come down to Tangmarg for getting the same.
“I am rushing to Sub District Hospital Tangmarg  to get the medicine because it is not available here,” says Abdul Qayoom a visitor from Srinagar whose accomplice had gone unwell.
Keeping in view, the heavy rush of tourists, Gulmarg deserves a full-fledged hospital with highly useful infrastructure, equipment and the manpower but unfortunately it is not there.
Gulmarg is situated at an altitude of about 8750 Ft above sea level and the hospital receives the patients with complications like Hypoxia, Cardiac ailments, Diarrhoea and Trauma cases.
Being a high altitude hill resort the tourists usually have the chances of hypoxia. Tourists particularly from lower regions of India are more prone to hypoxia once they visit places like Kangdoori (situated at an altitude of 10050 Ft) and Affarvat (situated at an altitude of 13400 Ft). Sources said that the hospital hardly stands in a condition to handle such cases. Most of the trauma and hypoxia cases are referred either to Srinagar or Tangmarg.   Surprisingly the hospital does not have an ambulance. The patient has to hire a private vehicle on being referred to other hospital for the treatment. Sources revealed that the hospital is usually being run by four or five persons including a physician, an ISM Doctor who is a volunteer, an ISM pharmacist, a nursing orderly, and a sweeper. An orthopaedician is deputed to this place once or twice in a week from Tangmarg hospital even though such services are highly required here given the frequency of trauma cases in Gulmarg. Block medical officer Tangmarg, Dr Asif khan says that it is not practically possible for the hospital administration to depute an orthopaedician on full time basis to Gulmarg as he has to take care of the patients at Sub district hospital at Tangmarg.
“We have got only two orthopaedicians here in Tangmarg that is the reason we depute them to Gulmarg on shift basis,” says Dr Khan.
Tourists especially from outside valley suffer more fractures because of their love for horse riding. “We receive many cases of hypoxia and trauma here in Gulmarg. Most of the trauma cases are due to negligence of ponywallas who are handling two or three ponies at single time,” says an employee of the hospital who pleaded anonymity.
The x-ray technician’s post is lying vacant but the services are partly provided by deputing a technician from Tangmarg hospital that too in shift wise manner. The hospital is surprisingly being run without a female nurse whose services are indispensable to the hospital keeping in view the heavy flow of female tourists to Gulmarg. Block medical officer Tangmarg admits that the hospital needs a lot of improvement as far as the infrastructure and other related problems are concerned.
“We are very serious in upgrading the hospital and very soon almost all the problems would be rectified,” explains Dr Khan.
In order to run the hospital in a more meaningful way the hospital  at world famous health resort should possess sufficient staff including a female nurse, an orthopaedist, a physician and an x-ray technician on 24 X 7 basis. The apprehension of emergencies remains always there especially during winters when skiers from several parts of world throng Gulmarg in huge numbers. There is no doubt that Gulmarg as a health resort provides the best possible services to its visitors but the bottom line is that Gulmarg development authority and department of health dervices have virtually nothing to offer them when they are not in the best of their health.

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