KOKERNAG: In October last year, when the daughter of Habibullah Mir, the headman of Magam village in Kokernag, developed labour pains, her family took her to the sub-district hospital Kokernag. After she was admitted there, the first thing doctors did was to screen her for Hepatitis C – the villagers of Magam were well known for being infested with the deadly virus. After she tested positive, doctors referred the pregnant woman to maternity hospital Anantnag.
“Once she tested positive, doctors simply refused to treat her. They told us that they did not have facilities to handle pregnancy cases infected with the virus. Despite our strong objection, they issued a referral, leaving us with no option than to take her to maternity hospital Anantnag,” Mir told Kashmir Reader.
The agony of the woman did not end at the Anantnag MCH, the only maternity and child care hospital in south Kashmir. The doctors there, when they learnt about her being Hepatitis-C infected, also refused to treat her.
“They asked us to buy separate surgical items that cost about thirty-thousand rupees. They said they destroy such equipment after the surgery is over. Finally they forced us to take her to Lal Ded hospital in Srinagar, where she delivered a baby after undergoing surgery,” Mir said.
Villagers of Magam say that every single pregnant woman has to face the same ordeal when she is taken to a hospital for delivery.
“The attitude of doctors and paramedics, at both Kokernag hospital and the Anantnag MCH, towards Hepatitis C-infected patients is equally indifferent,” Mir said.
A resident of Magam, Muhammad Akbar Ganai, said that every patient from the village who needs to go through even a minor surgical procedure is refused treatment at the government hospital at Kokernag.
“A few months ago I had a severe toothache. The tooth had decayed completely and needed to be removed. When I reached Kokernag hospital, doctors simply refused to remove my tooth. They asked me to go to Anantnag hospital. Since I knew that a visit to that hospital would be futile, I went to a private clinic and got my tooth removed,” Ganai said.
“We are being treated like untouchables by the doctors and paramedics here,” Ganai said.
Magam villagers rue the unavailability of health care facilities for the infected population in their village. “We can understand that health authorities are doing all this to prevent the spread of infection in hospitals. We appreciate their measures to control the infection, but can’t they set up separate facilities for the infected patients in the major hospitals of the district?” Ganai asked.
None of the top health department officials, including the medical superintendent of Anantnag MCH, responded to calls from Kashmir Reader.
An official posted at maternity hospital Anantnag admitted that all Hepatitis C-infected women brought to the hospital are referred to Srinagar.
“We cannot afford to operate on such patients here. Using the same beds and machinery will spread the infection to other patients. At Lal Ded hospital there is a separate ward for such patients, which is why we refer the patients there,” the official said.