Tertiary health care services in Srinagar are crumbling under the rural rush, as district hospitals are skipping their responsibilities and referring patients to Srinagar on minor grounds. HAROON MIRANI reports.
For district hospitals it has become more of a habit; it also spares them the responsibility. They are referring patients to tertiary health care centres of Srinagar even if the patients can be handled there with a little effort.
This in turn generates a huge rush for hospital like the SKIMS and SMHS, which seem to be crumbling under the rural rush. The super speciality SKIMS has been worst hit due to the ‘avoidable’ patient load.
According to Dr. Amin Tabish Medical Superintendent SKIMS, “on an average we receive 2000 patients daily in our Out Patient Department (OPD) and most of them come from different areas of Kashmir valley as well as Ladakh and Jammu region.”
Authorities at SKIMS say that the rush can be avoided as these patients are not of serious nature. “At least 1200 patients among them can be treated at local hospitals be it primary health centres as well as district hospitals.”
The last two decades of turmoil have weighed heavily on the health sector of the state. The rural health infrastructure has either crumbled or is unwilling to contribute to the state health, with the result everybody is moving towards city hospitals.
More than 7.3 lakh patients attended Outpatient and Emergency Departments (OPDs) in 2008 at SKIMS. Around 48,000 patients were admitted in 2007-2008. In 1989 and 1990, only 12,000 and 8,000 patients attended the OPDs respectively.
The situation at SMHS hospital is also similar. In 2008 around 1.30 lakh patients visited its out patient department. As is the case majority of them were from rural areas and lamented that they didn’t have proper doctors or facilities at their places.
SKIMS is a super speciality hospital which was meant to offer the specialised health care facility that is not available anywhere else in the valley. SKIMS, SMHS or Medical College are originally meant to take care of critical patients, conduct complex surgeries, research on advanced medical science, train doctors in latest medical technologies, but over the years the increased burden of simple patients has reduced them to primary health centres.
“Like for head injury, cancer or plastic surgery a patient has to come to SKIMS as he can’t be treated anywhere else,” said Dr Tabish. “But we get patients of flu, backache, minor stomach problems or such problems in huge numbers and we have to dedicate most of our energy in their treatment.”
The patient overload has marred the quality of healthcare at the institute too, a fact that is agreed by the administrators.
A majority of patients undergoing treatment in SKIMS or who have attended its OPD are usually not satisfied with the facilities available at the hospital.
“A patient visiting our OPD usually needs 10 minutes of our attention, but when the rush is huge, our doctors are able to give only one minute to him or her, which is not a healthy trend” said Dr Tabish.
The medical fraternity lament that the state does not have any referral policy, which is a must for a sound health care system. In the absence of a proper referral policy or even a good health policy, the doctors at the district hospitals don’t bother to work well.