SKIMS imposes media gag, disallows scribes to move within hospital premises

Srinagar: Over the time, Kashmir’s health sector is turning out to be hostile towards media. From restricting the movement of media in the healthcare facility premises, and denial of information, has been raising serious questions over the game of hide and seek being played by the health department.

Government Medical College and Associated Hospitals was already in the list, however, the new addition to the list is the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS, Soura.

With the reporting of deaths caused due to H1N1 at SKIMS, the premier institute has shut its doors for the media, with keeping a check on those who visit the facility even after they secure prior appointments from the concerned officials.

On Friday, after three more deaths caused due to H1N1 were reported, SKIMS authorities put a blanket ban on the movement of scribes and even denied information to them.

As the status of H1N1 cases by the authorities had stopped from last four days—this reporter also visited SKIMS to get the feel of things on ground, however, the treatment received, was telling something about media gag at the institution, not letting the information move out, not letting the media persons meet the concerned officials—who were either on leave—or, were not present in their cabins.

On my entry to the SKIMS, I was immediately stopped and was asked to prove my identity, which I did, and after that I told them that I was to meet the Medical Superintendent (MS) SKIMS, Dr. Syed Amin Tabish. After saying this, they bluntly asked me to go, saying that the media was not allowed within the premises.

After much ado, I was asked to proceed, on the condition that one among the security people will be accompanying me to the office of Medical Superintendent, to which I agreed.

On my way to MS’s office, I came to know that the isolation ward, kept for H1N1 patients, would fall in the way, and in order to keep an eye on me, to see, if I would try to venture inside the isolation ward—which I would not have done, given the required precautions that were needed to go inside, were entirely missing from my side. While we were walking, the security man did not return my press identity card till we reached MS office. 

Nevertheless, the security guard accompanied me to the MS office, and even there, he did not let me in, and literally stopped me. He went inside, and when he emerged out of the cabin, he told me that MS was on leave. However, I pushed him aside and tried to have a glimpse inside of my own. In there, somebody told me that the MS was on leave, and I can meet his deputy. He directed the guard, with one star on both of his shoulders, to assist me to the office of deputy MS.

He took me from another side, bypassing the isolation ward, which finally led us to the SKIMS administration block. He made me to roam here and there, knocked some doors, which were not responded to, and finally led me out of everything, pointing an exit direction towards me, saying “they are not here, you may leave.” I was left high and dry with no option, but to leave after spending almost two hours at SKIMS.

The media gag is not something new, Principal GMC, Dr Samia Rashid in the month of September issued an order which prohibited the entry of journalists within the hospitals, however, there was a provision of meeting with concerned medical superintendents, in case there was a need of any information, but SKIMS—a new ‘North Korea’ in making—has taken a step ahead to conceal information, to let the things die of their own.

A place where the Medical Superintendent or his deputy is not available, one cannot imagine to meet Director SKIMS, Dr A G Ahanger, who remains busy even after people secure prior appointments. Thus, there is a total plug on the information flow, and journalists are left with no option but search for alternative routes to get the information out, which is essential, and keeps a check on functioning of premier institutes like SKIMS. 


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