Director Health Dr Saleem Ur Rehman talks about the various initiatives taken by the department to strengthen healthcare services in Kashmir in an interview with Ikhlaq Qadri.
Kashmir Life: There is a perception that doctors are seldom seen in hospitals in rural areas. Is it so?
Dr Saleem Ur Rehman: This is not the fact that they are seen seldom (in the hospitals). Ninety-five percent of medical care is provided by government and only 5 percent by the private sector. Who is doing all this. We have staff deployed in Teetwaal, Mati Gavran, Sangarvani, Nobra. But at the same time we are not doing to the extent we should have done. I am worried about bigger institutions like district hospitals. At Kupwara we are coming up (with facilities), Anantnag is doing good, Baramulla is functioning extremely well. Honestly we owe it to people – we need to improve.
KL: There is huge inflow on patients in Hospitals and the rush is increasing everyday. What is being done to upgrade and add to the health infrastructure?
SR: As the population goes on increasing, more and more people have to be sick and will go to hospitals. What we are doing is strengthening our system. New posts are created. We have huge number of assistant surgeons. What once was distant dream is becoming reality at district levels. We will start to have CT Scan (facilities) at district level. It will be coming up at JLNM, Pulwama and Anantnag in the first stage. NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) is complementing our programs. They are supporting us in different ways. We are surely improving.
KL: Hospital waste is not disposed off scientifically, posing a serious health risk. What is the department doing to tackle the problem?
SR: There are lot of lacunas in this (hospital waste disposal). We have been training people at various levels, still things are not happening, though it should have been. We are on it. Honestly hospital waste management is a concern for me. It is not going well.
KL: There have been frequent disease outbreaks in rural areas in Kashmir. Gastro-enteritis, jaundice, Hepatitis, H1NI are major issues today. What is being done in this regard?
SR: This year there was no outbreak except few cases of H1N1. We took good care of them; Treated patients who were affected. We managed the whole Sangarvani block. Our minister personally monitored the whole process. We kept specialist doctors there to deal with the situation. Regarding other outbreaks we are doing the pre-requisites. We are regularly publishing precautionary measures and through CMOs (chief medical officers) we convey messages to the people. We have public health centre at Barzulla and IDSP – Integrated Disease Surveillance Program. We don’t let things to flare up.
KL: Sex-ratio is alarmingly low in Kashmir according to recent census. Many believed that female foeticide is a cause. Sex determination in clinics is the first step to that. What is being done to regulate the clinics performing ultrasonography?
SR: Sex selection is not the only cause. Until and unless society does not mend its ways, stopping female foeticide is not possible. There should be the behavioural change. Everybody has to play his role. I cannot change the mindset of people though I am trying. My mandate is not to let medical technology to be misused. We are carrying out awareness programs. Recently we have had rallies in all districts where female students participated with placards in their hands.
KL: Directorate of health recently issued public notice regarding functioning of private hospitals and private practice of doctors. Tell us about that?
SR: We have tried to streamline the things. Basically what we have here is government people running private sector. If I am in government service it is law that I cannot work from 10am to 4pm (in private clinics). Moreover, the doctors working on administrative level posts such as chief medical officer(CMO), medical superintendents of hospitals, deputy medical superintendents, deputy chief medical officers (DCMO), district immunisation officers (DIO), district health officers and block medical officers(BMO) etc are not allowed to undertake private practice of any kind as per the rules and regulations governing their administrative posts even if they are not taking non-practising Allowance (NPA) or doing it free of cost. We do appreciate that we have lot of sincere, hardworking doctors and staff available in the system who perform under trying situations with all sincerity and integrity but this initiative is to curb the malpractices of a few, which can only happen with active participation of all concerned members of fraternity and civil society.