Ban on SKIMS docs’ private practice

Two days ago, Kashmir’s premier tertiary health care centre, the SK Institute of Medical Sciences (SKMS), issued a public notice in local newspapers which read: “The private practice by any medical or paramedical member of SKIMS has been treated as cognizable offence under Section 21 of the (RPC), effective from 10th July 2001.” The notice warned that the violators would be imprisoned “for a term which may extend to three years.” The notice also carried names of some 171 faculty members of SKIMS and urged the general public to contact the Institute authorities if any of the members was found indulging in private practice. On  the face of it, the ‘warning’ to SKIMS doctors’ carries weight. After all, these doctors have given a written pledge that they wouldn’t indulge in private practice. Moreover, they receive a non-practicing allowance @ 25% of their basic pay. However, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to establish how the ban is violated and that the SKIMS doctors seldom give a fig for it. It’s no secret that two senior medicos from the Institute, for instance, operate brazenly in their private ‘dens’ in downtown Srinagar. One of them was even caught red-handed by the Vigilance Organisation sleuths some years ago. That did not act as a deterrent, though. The other medico, it’s again no secret, flaunts his ‘connections’ with a media house to browbeat the authorities in and outside the corridors of SKIMS. Yet another senior medico from the SKIMS examines, according to well-informed sources, at least 100 patients at his residence in Hyderpora area of the city every evening—his practice amounts to proverbial ‘Deade taell charas’ as he lives at a stone’s throw away from the headquarters of J&K police. Last summer, the Kashmir Reader carried a sting operation at the clinic of senior doctor from SMHS Hospital. The neurologist, found violating the ban on private practice, locked the clinic only to return some days later. Private practice by the doctors, particularly from those of SKIMS, has always been a contentious issue in the Valley. Not that the government has not forbidden the private practice in the past. The doctors were barred from practicing in the private twice in the past—in 1986 and 1995—and on both occasions the bans were subsequently withdrawn. Finally, the government declared the practice unlawful by virtue of a cabinet order. But some doctors provide perfunctory treatment to patients in the hospitals in their bid to discourage them from visiting government-run hospitals and to encourage their private practice. Now that SKIMS authorities have brought the issue of the ban on private practice into public limelight, one can only hope it’s implemented in letter and spirit.