Living in a place like Kashmir which is considered a paradise on earth was a fortunate thing however, in recent years of disturbances people who were maimed by recent natural and manmade calamities has turned it into highly prevalent area of physically disabled people. Earlier people used to come to our place to get healed from nature but now people of Kashmir have to seek medical assistance from various areas spread out of the state.
We have a plethora of patients with different disabilities from neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, head injury and spinal cord injury. We also have patients who have undergone amputations, patients with rheumatological disorders, bone and joint deformities that are in dire need of comprehensive rehabilitation.
I also have a son with cerebral palsy and needs regular medical check-ups and exercises. Now he has grown in adolescence and his needs have increased beyond regular cuddling. He is mentally normal and intelligent with IQ more than 110. I tried to teach him at home and he is able to read and write but there is no school in the state that has any inclusive setup, nor is there any business or recreational place that is disabled friendly.
Leave the luxuries apart there is not a single hospital that is disabled friendly. Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences is one of the biggest hope for us at nearest and its OPD entry is closed with chains and one has to lift the patient on a two feet foot path before getting in. There is no card registration counter for the disabled or senior citizens. Rehabilitation department at super-speciality centre in GMC Srinagar is on the first floor of the building with no ramp or lift.
Medical rehabilitation is a team effort that is lead by a trained MBBS doctor with 3 years training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilition. Team includes other highly trained para medical staff of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, vocational therapists, rehabilitation psychologists, speech therapist, orthotists, prosthetists and many more. Medical doctor with post-graduation in PMR is unique specialist to have training in planning the comprehensive rehabilitation of the patient and his environment.
We were lucky to have this department of PMR in SKIMS as a pioneer centre in the country which was started at the same time when it was established in AIIMS New Delhi. However, the department is still at the limbo of extinguishment. There are still no faculty in the department and no postgraduates are coming from this department. There is still no Orthotics and Prosthetics workshop in this tertiary care institute and all the work is being outsourced to private orthotics and prosthetician.
An effort was made in the direction of establishing this department in GMC Srinagar by former Principal Dr Pampori however, it too seems to be a distant dream.
Government of India had also established a regional rehabilitation centre CRC in Bemina however, it also lacks a Rehabilitation Medico and is being run by a bureaucrat. It is under direct supervision of central government and ministry of social welfare, it is running some para medical graduation and diploma courses. Patients being referred to this place have to have lot of paper work to get if any assistive device but mostly they are being turned away for lack of material and funds.
There are some NGO’s working in the field of rehabilitation however they too have started getting stingy after government has increased surveillance and accountability of the funds.
There are lot of private physiotherapy centres which are run by physiotherapists some are trained some are not even well qualified. Moreover, it is quite expensive for the patients and their families to regularly go for such therapy in private.
Since I am a affected person myself, I can understand the basic principles of most of the procedures and therapies. I could make out sometimes how an unsupervised treatment can cause a havoc.
I had recently taken my son to one of the premium institutes of rehabilitation in New Delhi they taught some exercises on a highly advanced medical equipment and referred me back to SKIMS, PMR for the same treatment as that is available in SKIMS too.
I enquired from Rehabilitation Council of India which maintains the register of Rehabilitation specialists with post-graduation degree in PMR. I came to know that there are five doctors from our state of Jammu and Kashmir, two have retired as professor from SKIMS PMR, one is in Jammu working in health services as a medical officer, other two are working in SKIMS, however I could not find their names in the faculty list of SKIMS site. I think we have potential but our medical rehabilitationalists are still untapped.
I have a humble request to Chief Minister and minister for family and social welfare to look into the issue and provide a well trained staff for comprehensive rehabilitation of children of sorrow.