Srinagar: Hundreds of doctors trained in alternative medicine are forced to handle emergency cases in various district hospitals due to the shortage of allopathic doctors in the state. They have also been known to be asked to attend emergency services at night by district health officials.
Official sources said that thousands of patients’ lives are endangered at different hospitals due to the callous approach of the health department whose officials have asked Ayurvedic and BUMS doctors to practice allopathic medicine and handle emergency cases, including child births, in hospitals and at health centres of J&K.
According to official figures, there is a shortage of nearly 400 specialist doctors in Kashmir’s rural areas; 200 doctors have skipped rural postings.
“The shortage of doctors has led to an illegal phenomenon of cross practice as BUMS and Ayurvedic doctors are forced to prescribe allopathic drugs and handle emergency cases, including accidents and deliveries,” said a senior doctor in the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir (DHSK).
He said specialist doctors, including cardiologists, gynaecologists, surgeons, physicians and paediatricians are not available in most of the district hospitals, which has created an acute shortage of medical professionals in rural areas.
Another official revealed that around 200 BUMS doctors working in various hospitals, dispensaries and health centres of J&K have been mandated to attend emergency duties as they had been recruited against medical officer posts.
“Many doctors are appointed against vacant posts meant for allopathic doctors following political intervention. This flawed recruitment policy has also led to the illegal practice in different hospitals. So under the system, they are bound to prescribe allopathic medicines and handle emergency cases in the absence of allopathic doctors,” he said.
Sources further said some hospitals are entirely run by BUMS and Indian System of Medicine (ISM) doctors.
This illegal practice is going on mostly in rural hospitals where MBBS-certified doctors either refuse to go or where there is no post vacant for them,” they said.
As per official data, there is a sanctioned strength of nearly 1,500 doctors for the Valley’s DHSK-run hospitals. However, only 900 doctors are available for duty, while the rest are either absent or deputed on choice postings in medical colleges and other departments.
Doctors said the policy had been proving disastrous for patients. ISM Director Dr Kabir A Dar said they had already issued circulars enjoining upon doctors of both systems to refrain from cross practice and stick solely to their own system of medicine.
However, the department forces BUMS and ISM doctors to prescribe allopathic medicine and handle emergency cases during night hours.
Dr Dar admitted that there had been complaints about cross practice and doctors trained in alternative medicine handling emergency duties.
“We have already issued strict orders to all doctors to refrain from such practice. Let’s hope things change for good. If we found any such practice still prevalent, we will take strict action,” he said.
Recently, a report was prepared by officials about the illegal cross practice. It found that these doctors had been indulging in cross practice in almost all rural sub-district hospitals (SDHs) and primary health centres (PHCs) at the cost of the lives of the patients.
“There are around 450 ISM doctors in working in PHCs and 500 in dispensaries in correlation with allopathic doctors in various JK hospitals. And Chief Medical and Block Medical Officers of almost all districts assign night duties to BUMS and ISM doctors,” sources said, quoting the report.
“Doctors revealed that they had declined to work in emergencies many times. However, higher-ups turned a deaf ear towards the serious issue,” they said.