Stalled hospital relocation raises questions on Mehbooba’s credibility

Influential traders ‘vetoed’ government’s plan to relocate hospital from unsafe building; patients at risk

ANANTNAG: With pregnant women bearing the brunt of space crunch at the lone Maternity and Child Hospital (MCH) in south Kashmir, the gynecologists and civil society members have started questioning the first woman chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s slogan of “dignity , safety, and empowerment” of women.
Located in a congested Sherbagh locality of Anantnag town, the hospital caters to the patients from all four districts of south Kashmir.
The space crunch in the hospital is such that both the labour and surgical wards have to accommodate 18 to 20 beds against their collective capacity for 7 to 8 beds.
Due to unavailability of the beds, most women-in-labour brought to the hospital after 4 pm are referred to Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar or to private nursing homes elsewhere in south Kashmir for delivery.
The hospital building was declared unsafe by the ‘Fire and Emergency’ services when they carried out its safety audit a couple of years ago.
The district health authorities had last year decided to shift the hospital to spacious old district hospital building at Janglat Mandi, but the chemists and shopkeepers operating outside the hospital resented the move.
They got it stalled by using their political influence, evoking strong criticism from the locals and health officials.
The hospital management has also sent several recommendations to the government about shifting of the hospital.
With the department ignoring the recommendations allegedly due to political pressures, the civil society members and the doctors have started to question the sincerity in chief minister’s promises to women.
“Pregnant women lose all their dignity here after being put on beds in corridors or by making them to share beds. In evening hours almost all the women are referred from here due to unavailability of beds. The referral at a time when they need immediate care not only puts the lives of expecting mothers at risk but also of their unborn babies,” a gynecologist posted at the MCH told Kashmir Reader.
“If Mehbooba Mufti really believes in dignity and safety of the women, she should visit this hospital and see the plight of the expecting mothers of her home district.
“She must order shifting of the hospital to put an end to the agonies of the pregnant women they face here or after being referred from here. If she fails to do so then her slogans of dignity of women carry no weight,” the gynecologist said.
Her colleague in the hospital shared the views. She said: “Last year, when the process for shifting the hospital was started, the political pressure was such that the district health authorities had to shift it back to this place overnight.”
“Mehbooba Mufti is talking highly about women’s dignity. We expect her to rise above the political interests and shift the hospital,” the doctor said.
The civil society members are equally enraged by the political interference over shifting of the hospital. And they asked the chief minister to immediately relocate the facility.
“The hospital has been declared unsafe by the Fire and Emergency Services authorities two years ago. Running the hospital in the unsafe building means the authorities are playing with the lives of the mothers and their newborns,” spokesman of South Kashmir Civil Society, Rao Farman, told Kashmir Reader.
“It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of its citizens. We ask the government who would take the blame for any tragedy occurring at the hospital? Will doctors be made scapegoats?” Rao asked.