In an election held after seven years, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) elected Dr Suhail Naik 35, a pediatrician, as its president. Hailing from Shopian and currently posted at Sopore, Naik has been a student activist during his GMC days. He talked to Faheem Mir about DAK and the other side of the medical profession
KASHMIR LIFE (KL): What is DAK all about and what it aims to achieve?
Dr Suhail NAIK (DSN): Doctor’s Association Kashmir is an apolitical organization with basic aim of looking after welfare of doctors and quality care health services to the people. Earlirer, it was led by our dynamic seniors like Dr Khalid Parviz, Dr Mir Mushtaq, Dr Suhail Mian, Dr Shafat Gagnoo and Dr Arshid. The association is bridge between doctors and government.
In J&K, doctors have a number of genuine pending demands, which the successive governments have failed to address. Our doctor’s are working without security. Unlike J&K, verbal and physical offence against doctor’s on duty is non bailable offence in all other states.
We demand that all the recommended five district hospitals must get upgraded to medical colleges on war footing basis. There must be crystal clear health posting and transfer policy. We are demanding separate OPD for aged patients, vaccine program must be expanded. Our doctors serving rural areas don’t have proper accommodation, rest rooms or canteen facilities.
KL: How big is DAK?
DSN: DAK is a big institution. In the recently held free, fair and democratic election was done in two phases to elect core body. Core body has one vice president each from Resident Doctor’s Association GMC Srinagar and National Health Mission. We have internal and external support from Medical Faculty Association (MFA), Government Medical College Srinagar (GMC), Shar-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Society of Consultant Doctors (SCD), Jammu Doctor’s Association (JAD), Society of Dental Surgeon’s J&K (SDSJK) and Chenab Valley Doctor’s Association (CVDA). We already have elected district bodies. We have an empowered coordination committee comprising members from all association headed by Dr Mohammed Yousuf Tak, which is looking after intra association issues. Another empowered committee is looking after DAKs social Outreach Responsibility Program, which is headed by Dr Masood Rashid.
KL: People have been talking about their problems with medical fraternity, what are the fraternity’s problems with the society?
DSN: In J&K, there is no vibrant private sector and people are dependent on government hospitals. But at the same time our rural hospitals are not well equipped and upgraded. So many times a patient is referred for MRI or Echo to Srinagar hospitals.
People must appreciate the work of their doctors. In 2016 unrest, for instance, 10000 injured patients were received at district and sub district hospitals. Out of these 83℅ were treated locally and 85 critical patients were operated at peripheral hospitals. Doctor’s working in rural hospitals had established 1000 medical relief camps at 157 locations during 2014 floods. No health related disaster or epidemic occurred during floods when all our central hospitals were deluged.
During 2016-17, doctors posted in rural areas have seen 1.36 crore patients in OPDs, carried out 3.5 lakh surgeries, and managed 81,000 deliveries. Besides, they have done 20,000 laparoscopic surgeries, spine surgeries, and complex orthopedic surgeries, Infant mortality rate, IMR has been reduced to 26, which is national achievement. Now, LSCS is routinely done at district and sub district hospitals. During past half decade work done in rural hospitals has doubled but governments has failed in expanding and create more jobs to help manage the increasing patient load.
KL: Why are doctors from Kashmir considered better once they leave Kashmir?
DSN: Haha! Kashmiri people are born intelligent. That is why our doctors are considered better once they leave Kashmir. Actually the grooming of our doctors in medical school is best with high educational and training standards. That is why once our doctors get proper platform they outclass everyone. In America Dr Shawl is Chief of Cardiology and Dr Guroo is Chief of Robotics.
KL: How has turmoil in last 30 years helped Kashmir’s medical fraternity to become better doctors?
DSN: Turmoil and conflict has always resulted in new challenges to the doctors. Almost on daily basis, different type of firearms injuries, pellet injuries, airway problem emanating from smoke of shells, pellet eye injuries, come to the hospitals. Besides, people are living in psychological distress and suffering from spectrum of psychiatric disorders.
KL: What are the health problems that Kashmir is witnessing that no other doctor is treating outside Kashmir?
DSN: Health problems all over north India are almost same. But as I said fire arm injuries, pellet injuries, psychiatric disorders are additional conflict born diseases.
KL: What are the reasons that the fraternity at the doctors level is divided?
DSN: Our fraternity at all levels is united and it was well depicted in recently concluded DAK elections. There may be intra professional competition and rivalry that is human nature. Some vested interests are trying to hijack this movement for personal interests, but it is our responsibility to save this sacred institution for future generations.
KL: How would DAK help manage medical education and health care better at a time when more medical colleges are seeking admission from next year?
DSN: It is our long pending demand that all five sanctioned medical colleges must be started as soon as possible. I am assuring you that there is no dearth of specialists and super specialists in as of now. Our overseas doctors are also ready to come back to work in these colleges. I am in constant touch with them. We are of firm opinion, that once these medical colleges start, it automatically means an infrastructure upgrade, modern medical equipment, new gadgetry, human power. It will get best health care at door steps. If these colleges are not started by 2018, DAK will go for an agitation.
KL: What is DAK position on private practice of doctors?
DSN: Private practice is not illegal for all doctors working in J&K other than those serving in SKIMS. If government will enact a law for blanket ban on private practice, DAK will support the move.
KL: Usually patients complaints doctors treat them with less interest in government hospitals unlike in private clinics?
DSN: It is just a virtual perception. Due to large number of patients visiting government hospitals, a treating doctor has to calibrate time. At the end treating doctor is responsible for outcome.
KL: Doctors posted in far flung areas manage their transfers to the city. What is DAK stand on this?
DSN: This is a reality. As we all know political interference is order of the day everywhere. Doctors with political clout get favorable posting. I myself served people mostly in rural areas and never approached authorities for favorable posting. That is why our association is demanding crystal clear posting and transfer policy for doctors.