SRINAGAR: Waiting for her turn to be examined by a doctor in room no 107 of Out Patient Department (OPD) at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura, 55-year old Fareeda Banu from Kupwara could not take it any longer. Suffering from an intestinal infection, Fareeda had no option but to lie down on the floor after her legs starting hurting from standing in a queue for three hours.
Along with her husband, Fareeda had left home early to get an early appointment with the doctors, but despite their efforts they were still stuck in the queue by noon. A regular visitor to the hospital from last two years, Fareeda said waiting for hours outside the doctor’s room was a routine for her now.
“Patients forget their illness and start talking of leg and back pains, because of standing for long. We left house early to seek timely appointment but such is the rush of patients, scores (of patients) had already occupied waiting benches when we reached here,” says Fareeda while glancing the long queues inside the hospital.
Two doctors are usually available in one consultation room and sometimes only one, but the patients and doctors say that even four doctors can’t tackle the huge rush.
“We don’t get proper time to check patients. When inflow of patients is huge, the treatment quality degrades. Even sometimes we fear of public anger if we take a little more time in examining the patients,” a doctor, wishing anonymity, said.
Cramped into the corridors with hardly any proper place to sit or stand, patients and their attendants often exchange heated arguments. Sometimes even scuffles break out between hospital staff and attendants.
“People tolerate when they are being told to wait for few minutes or even hour or two but they get irritated after more than two or three hours. We sometimes become end victims of their anger,” a staffer, wishing anonymity, said.
Sharik Ahmad, a postgraduate student from Anantnag is accompanying his father, has worn a surgical mask as avoid picking up an infection in the cramped hospital corridors.
“Rather than being cured here, we are more apprehensive about getting infected. After, staying for even one hour here, one feels dizziness given the drowsy hospital atmosphere. A weak person is even more prone to infections,” says Ahmad.
Medical Superintendent SKIMS, Syed Amin Tabish told Kashmir Reader that the patient influx has risen at the tertiary care hospital because patients “who could have been treated at districts hospitals come unnecessarily to SKIMS for treatment”.
“This hospital was created with a purpose to treat patients with complex diseases but unfortunately people with minor (health) problems that could be treated at health centres come unnecessarily here that sometimes leads to chaos in the hospital,” Tabish said.
Tabish declined to divulge the patient-doctor ratio in OPD section of the hospital, but said that the OPD receives 2500 to 3000 patients on daily basis, while 300 patients visit the hospital through emergency route.
“The other reason behind huge rush at specialist hospitals including SKIMS is that we don’t have accountability in referral system or we don’t have a good referral system at all. If a patient can be treated at territory hospitals he/she doesn’t need to visit here. We need to bring accountability in referral system and create a good health policy to improve health care in the state,” he said.
The 780 bed hospital has a total strength of 1000 doctors, officials said. Around 70 to 80 patients are admitted to hospital through emergency section and 50 to 60 are admitted through OPD.
Tabish added that being a public sector hospital with nominal fee for treatment, a number of patients rush to this hospital.
“There is need to create awareness among general public that SKIMS is meant for treating patients with extreme illness and instead of coming here they should visit and checkup in local clinics or in territory health centres. We have taken an initiative in this regard,” he added.