By Sumiya Shah
SRINAGAR: With most of the senior faculty on vacation, Kashmir’s referral hospitals are left mostly at the mercy of junior doctors during winters.
While the senior doctors say they cannot be denied their rightful vacation, others question if the hospitals are well staffed to manage the yearly sabbatical.
Outspoken president of the factionalised Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK) Dr Nissar-ul-Hassan kicked up a controversy last month by calling the winter vacations of the faculty “unethical”.
“Despite huge inconvenience faced by public due to dire shortage of doctors in hospitals, senior doctors are allowed for winter vacation. It is ironical that faculty of premier hospitals are allowed to leave at a time when their services are needed most,” Dr Hassan said in a press statement.
“Hundreds of patients, every day turn up at these hospitals from far flung areas only to be told that senior doctors are on leave. These hospitals in absence of senior doctors are run by junior doctors who find it difficult to cope with the rush of patients and are unable to handle complicated cases, he added”.
Ghulam Rasool Ganaie, a resident of Anantnag, recently brought his newborn, who had breathing difficulty, to the G B Pant Hospital where he was informed about the unavailability of a senior doctor. He had no option but to visit a private clinic.
“After I got to know that there are no senior doctors at the OPD, I got hopeless. I borrowed some money and moved my baby to a private clinic,” Ganaie said.
While many departments of GMC affiliated hospitals will have half of the faculty strength on duty during the vacation, the duty roster shows some departments left with only one senior doctor.
There is no senior consultant available in the Blood Bank, and Gastroenterology department.
In SKIMS Bemina, as per the roster for January, Psychiatry, Anatomy, Microbiology, Physiology, Blood bank and Biochemistry departments have no senior consultant available for the month.
In the busy General Surgery department, only one senior doctor is doing the surgeries along with a registrar.
Dr Mir Mushtaq, Spokesman of another faction of DAK, who insisted that Dr Hassan did not represent the DAK, admitted that there was shortage of doctors in the hospitals.
“There are many posts vacant for doctors in the health department but government is not willing to fill all the posts. If government will fill all these vacant posts, all the senior doctors can enjoy the vacation without leaving their department in the hands of their juniors”.
He, however, added that the arrangements of doctors on duty should be made properly so that the patient care was not affected.
At SKIMS Soura, the OPD blocks, as usual, witnesses a heavy rush of patients, each one desperate for his turn.
“We handle OPD from 9:00am to 4:00pm and during that we see about 200-250 patients in a single day. We don’t even have a time to take a lunch break,” Dr Farhana said.
Officials insist that work does not suffer due to vacations of the faculty.
“We have a roster, which keeps the availability of senior doctors on 24×7. We have arranged all our senior consultants in OPD, operation theatres and for daily check up in wards,” a registrar in General Operation Theatre said.
Dr Altaf Haji, a cancer surgeon at the hospital, insisted that were enough senior doctors were available for patients.
However, a junior doctor, wishing anonymity, said, “Here we are already short of senior doctors, and then suddenly, half of them are not available. The situation is alarming but is muted up,” he said.
A senior doctor at Lal Ded hospital told Kashmir Reader that they were ready to skip winter vacation “if government facilitate us with earned leave”.
Principal GMC, Dr Kaiser Ahmad said they cannot deny vacations to senior faculty, who he said, worked very hard through the year.
“We have to facilitate winter vacation to our senior as it is their right and we have enough strength of senior doctors in our hospitals” he said.