H1N1: 10 Professionals Who Make The Difference Are Different!


SRINAGAR: Quick diagnostics was the net difference that Kashmir made on the H1N1, thanks to a small research laboratory that existed in SKIMS since 2010. Supposed to handle not more than 10 tests a week, they are now conducting more than 40 a day.

But not many people know that this laboratory is manned by 10 professionals who are temporary project-related individuals ‘appointed’ on contract. Unlike SKIMS employees, they lack the right to protest for inadequate facilities, if any, and could be on roads if the project closes! In a way, SKIMS lacks any direct stakes in the diagnostics of H1N1. They are into treatment only.

These professionals might be feeling exploited as their surged output lacks relevance to their career graph. In case they contract the disease, they will be anonymous patients lacking the support their counterparts in other departments have access to. Given the poor state of safety measures at individual levels, they must be fearful for their lives.

SKIMS Dircetor Dr Showkat Zargar and Director Health Kashmir Dr Saleem ur Rehman in a news conference.
SKIMS Dircetor Dr Showkat Zargar

A visit to the now-restricted laboratory suggests the lab is misplaced and one has to cover a long crowded distance including the OPD to reach the spot. Even the swabs reach the lab from the collection centre taking the same route. Once tested, there is inadequate waste management.

The lab being the only facility, all the swabs go there – from SKIMS collection centre, from SMHS, Lala Ded and Children Hospital and from the hospitals that Directorate of Health Services is owned across Kashmir. It is a pretty huge load.

Dr Farooq A Jan, the Superintendent of SKIMS admitted the basics. “It is a project that was given to the SKIMS and it is a fact the people working in the laboratory are not on our (SKIMS) payrolls,” Dr Jan said. “We pay them from the project but for a more detailed account, Dr Parvez A Koul must be contacted.”

Appreciating the efforts that these professionals have put in, Dr Parvez Koul said these people have worked tirelessly even as their load has increased enormously. “There is nobody in the government who is not appreciative of their efforts,” Dr Koul said. He also admitted that they are contract-based employees of the project whose salary is being paid by ICMR as the CCD, project offshore co-sponsor, has stopped paying for a long time now.

Rejecting the allegations that they lack adequate protection at personal levels while managing the overload of tests, Dr Koul said whatever is required has been given to them. “They must use it for personal protection.”

Dr Koul said he has the information that SKIMS is getting ICMR funding for creating a major laboratory but is unaware of the timeline attached to it.

parvezkoulBut SKIMS staying away from joining the diagnostic part of the ongoing crisis is something that is now being loudly talked about in the institute. “Why can not the virology section of the microbiology department jump into this activity?” one senior teacher in the SKIMS said. “They have all the facilities and if they require training, they can get trained automatically in this research lab.” The teacher said as the new laboratories are not coming up so fast – given the costs and time involved, SKIMS authorities must train its staff and reduce the load on this research laboratory. It can share its protective gear with them as well, he added.

At the same time, SKIMS authorities must take care of these professionals and adjust them. They have put in their efforts and made a difference. Why can not the SKIMS and the government create a different yardstick to tackle their issue?

SKIMS insiders said they have taken up the issue with top authorities at official level which includes even the Raj Bhawan. So where is the ball now? Is Raj Bhawan leaving the issue for the PDP-BJP alliance so that they take another two months in negotiating the deal for these 10 people who are obviously “different”?


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