SRINAGAR: The government’s tall claims of providing affordable healthcare notwithstanding, patients have to shell out hefty sums for treatment in the government-run hospitals in Kashmir Valley.
As one enters the SMHS Hospital here, the claims made by the government prove to be a hoax. For, the patients here can be seen spending money on almost everything, including medicines and medical examinations.
Ghulam Nabi, whose sister has been in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit of the hospital for past two months, said he spent “over Rs 2 lakh” on medicines and tests.
“You have to spend an equal amount in a private hospital too,” he said. “What is the fun of getting your patient treated here? What concession do we get?”
“When a patient is admitted at the SMHS hospital, the first thing you have to do is pay Rs 250. Earlier one would get Rs 200 back after discharge from the hospital, but now they don’t give it back, saying ‘your blood sugar, ECG, and urine examination charges comes under it’.”
Ghulam Nabi said some tests done in the hospital cost Rs 500, while a portable X-Ray and a CT-Scan costs Rs 100 and Rs 1,000, respectively.
“We have to pay every time we are asked by the doctor to repeat a test,” he said, adding that government-run hospitals “are becoming unaffordable for poor people”.
“In a day, I spent an average around Rs 3,000 to 5,000 here. I have to buy even cotton rolls from outside.”
According to the patients, the Drug Sales Counter of the hospital doesn’t usually have expensive drugs in stock. Consequently, they said, they have to buy the medicines from the market.
Tauseef, an attendant, said: “I am from Kupwara. The doctors have prescribed my patient albumin injections, which costs Rs 4, 000 per piece. I cannot afford it.”
“I have already bought medicines worth Rs 10, 000 from the market. I cannot afford to spend more on the injections.”
A group of doctors at SMHS said they were “pained” to see the plight of patients and attendants in the hospital.
“It pains us to see the poor attendants making rounds of the medical superintendent’s office. To provide little help to these people, we collect money and get their medicines,” they said.
“Ideally, the government should have all the medicines available at the drug counter, because the drugs are provided at cheaper rates there. But they are always short of medicines.”
Pharmacists at the Drug Sales Counter, Mohammad Ashraf, said they don’t have space to have all the medicines all the time.
“We are provided with little space here, and it makes it difficult for us to keep all the medicines available here. We have written to the higher ups many a times, but they only give verbal assurances,” he said.
Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Nazir Choudhary, said, “Whatever budget we have, we try to survive on that. To make drugs available, you have to have money, and we are short of it.”
Principal Government Medical College, Rafique Pampori, however, said the government hospitals do provide drugs and services on subsidized rates.
“We provide medical examinations on subsidised rates, but our budget doesn’t allow us to provide everything free of cost,” he said, admitting that are government-run hospitals were becoming unaffordable for patients.