Infant hospital

Valley’s sole children hospital, GB Pant, has only 135 beds for a child population of 10 lakh. With only three incubators the hospital is hugely ill-equipped. Saimah Khawaja reports

When 37 year old Nazir Ahmad Dar of Pattan, a farmer, brought his new born son with breathing problems to the valley’s only paediatric hospital, he thought his worries would be over. But he was wrong.
The GB Pant children’s hospital does not have a neo-natologist, who is qualified to treat the new born.
There are many more problems plaguing the hospital, which receives 500 to 600 patients in the out patient department and has to admit more than thrice the capacity of patients.
Medical supridentant of GB Pant hospital, Dr. Kamili says, “As the sole children hospital in Kashmir valley people have lot of expectations. Just 135 beds for entire population of the valley is insufficient. We receive four times more patients than the hospital can accommodate.”
With the lack of infrastructure and facilities, it is becoming difficult for the hospital to cope.
After the children’s hospital was shifted to Badamibagh cantonment area from its earlier Wazirbagh location near LD hospital, it was re-christened G B Pant (Govind Ballabh Pant) hospital and its bed strength was also reduced by 40 to 135 beds. The hospital had 175 beds before it was shifted to the cantonment area. It is supposed to cater to the entire child population of the valley estimated to be around 10 lakh.
The wards and the intensive care unit are housed in a well designed building. From outside it catches the attention of every passer-by making them believe the hospital to be modern and fully equipped but once inside, the things are starkly different.
There are only three incubators and on an average two or more children share each. And out of the six, one is donated by a business man named Wakil from Dubai, just three are functional. Incubator is a life saving equipment mostly needed by pre-term babies or those born with some ailment.
“The actual requirement is of 12 ventilators and 30 incubators. The hospital does not possess even half the number. Due to that, at times, we are unable to provide critical care to all the patients,” says a doctor, who wished not to be named.
The lack of beds also makes doctors put more than one patient on a single bed even in the intensive care ward.
Akhtar, whose three year old daughter is admitted for jaundice and has to share beds with two other patients says, “Three babies lying on one single bed create lot of problems. It is discomfiture for all the three, when they need rest the most.”
A staff nurse requesting anonymity said that the situation was far more gruesome. “Yesterday a 9-month-old baby was brought for breathing problems. There was no ventilator available not even a bed was vacant. The baby had to be laid on the floor. Before a ventilator could be arranged, the baby breathed his last,” says the nurse.
Acknowledging the scarcity of beds Dr Kamili says, “No doubt there is scarcity of beds but we can’t refuse the patients as it would be precarious for the hospital authorities and would be given a political colour.”
The huge rush of patients and overcrowded wards are putting the patients under increased risk of infections
Doctors acknowledge that children and newborn with serious complications are at high risk inside the hospital wards and are prone to infections. “This hospital is full of infections,” said a junior doctor pleading anonymity.
The lack of quality lab support is another area of worry. For some very crucial tests patients have to be taken to private clinics and labs outside the hospital.
The most precarious condition is that of the neo-natology care. “The neo- natology department is in shambles. GB Pant does not have a neo-natologist even being a full fledged children hospital,” a resident doctor said.
Super specialisation in neo-natology is not done in any of the medical colleges in Jammu and Kashmir. However, in the peadriatics department of SK Institute of Medical Sciences, some doctors have been handling neonates for quite a few years and in the process gaining some well needed expertise. Dr Wajid heads the neo- natology department at SKIMS.
“The level 1 and 2 neo natology equipments are not handled properly by our doctors because of lack of expert staff and neonatologists,” says Dr Wajid.  Neo natology department has three levels or categories of specialisation. Doctors say the primary and secondary level treatments are available in G.B.Pant but level 3 treatment is not available there and the babies are referred to SKIMS in acute cases.
Pediatrics overall complain that their output is no less than their counterparts in other departments still the neo-natology is completely ignored in the health sector.
“Hospital and Health administrations spend more on procuring equipments for radiology and cardiology as that gets them good media attention,”  a paediatrician said.
“There are more chances of deaths in neo-natology if cases are not handled properly,” he added.
G B Pant is being jointly run by Army and the state health department. The hospital staff alleges that the army has always ignored the hospital. “Apart from giving little equipment to the hospital, the army has done nothing for its pediatrics’ wards. In fact, the dual control of army and civil administration has affected the over-all functioning of the hospital,” said another doctor at the hospital.
However, Dr Kamili says, “If we compare the hospital with such hospitals in other states then it is quite a decent one. Our hospital has 11 consultants/Lecturers with seven more coming. In the senior category there are four Associate Professors and two Assistant Professors.” He also blames the attendants for lack of cleanliness and chaos-like situation in the hospital. “On an average there are five attendants for every patient affecting the smooth functioning of the hospital,” he rued.
Dr.Kamili says there is urgent need to build hospitals at the district levels. Some districts do not have even a dispensary. “By the time they reach to Srinagar it is way too late for our doctors to treat,” he added.  Stating that it was not a question of pediatrics alone but the entire government healthcare sector, Kamili said,
“Though the government hospitals should be made more resourceful. Healthcare professional cannot make excuse of financial code restrictions as it is a very critical job. Doctors have to work at the nick of time so the equipment has to be upto date to meet any contingency of time. We need to weigh all the sides and go for a uniform policy code in government health sector to give it a fresh lease of life.”

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