Doc vs bureaucracy hobbling healthcare

Srinagar: The recent tussle between doctors and the bureaucrats has once again brought it to fore that everything is not normal between them, and they still are the two wheels of a vehicle who at times, refuse to move in tandem, bringing the vehicle to a grinding halt.

This time around, it was SDM Zainapora, who had allegedly misbehaved with a doctor on duty. In response, initially doctors protested by wearing black badges around arms and later went on for a two hour ‘token strike’ called by Dr Suhail Naik led Doctors Association, Kashmir (DAK). They wanted a strict action against ‘erring’ SDM.

The administration called an emergency meeting with the DAK representatives, assuring immediate action against those who violated the law. In between  the KAS officers jump into the fray and issue a statement saying that DAK has blown the ‘minor’ issue out of proportion. Okay!

Let us understand the situation like this: SDM Zainapora misbehaved with a doctor on duty. If it is proven, it really is an offence.  However, what the DAK did after that—two hour strike in all the hospitals excluding SKIMS, SMHS and other associated hospitals – could have been avoided. DAK representatives should have themselves approached the district administration, and I am sure that they would have responded in the same fashion, as they did after the ‘token strike’ was observed.

What KAS Officers Association did was not equally justifiable. The behaviour from the SDM captured in a video cannot be termed as a minor issue. Thus, there was a need to exercise restraint as the administration had assured DAK that the action would be taken within two days. Why issue a statement now?

It was once said by a top doctor from GMC to a top bureaucrat in an official letter that you sit on an arm chair, in an air conditioned room, you know nothing about functioning of the hospital, and you better keep your nose on official files: that is what the KAS Officers Association should have done, coming to the rescue of your colleague does not mean that you can say anything.

There is a great pressure on doctors who are either working in the major hospitals in Srinagar or in sub district hospital. And it has been a routine that people who visit the hospital often end up having a scuffle with a doctor on duty, and the bureaucrats are no exception.

The point I am making is not that both the parties do not know their role. They do. However, adventurously, sometimes they move out of their boundaries, and what happens next is usually a disaster.

In this case the SDM overstepped, and ended up having a scuffle with the medico, which cannot be justified by any means. Doctors overstepped, and called for a strike, which again cannot be justified, because the already limping healthcare cannot afford further halt, or it will collapse. Moreover, it may have caused immense hardships to the patients in the various districts, which again cannot be justified by any sort of means.

The internal mechanism—talking about the administrative affairs of any hospital—is being greatly influenced by the rift that we may see outside: take the case of Zainapora, it was a manifestation of the rift.  It is just the manifestation of what is badly cooking inside.

This sort of approach is proving to be detrimental for the growth of the health sector on a larger level. A suggestion made by an expert is immediately countered by a bureaucrat, who does not know the intricacies of the health care. What happens ultimately is that a status quo is maintained: no growth, only chest beating. 

The doctors and the bureaucrat should understand that their efficient and well coordinated approach is the only way forward. Issuing statements from both the sides won’t do any good. Misbehaving is not going to do any good, rather it drags you down to the ‘filth’, which being a bureaucrat you won’t afford.

There is a need for positive and constructive efforts to be put in, especially in health sector, so that the system benefits. For this to happen, both the parties are in need to take a firm stand leaving behind the longstanding rivalry.

Bureaucrat on their level of competence should work for the betterment of the health sector, rather than demonizing those who are working tirelessly. And same is true for the other party, thus keeping it alive with whatever is available. Medics should carry on with their work. And if such an incident happens again, instead of calling for a ‘token strike,’ they should approach the administration, rather than make the patients suffer for no reason.

Without both of them the system is likely to fail and with their bad coordination, the system will malfunction; with their effective coordination, it is going to go a long way. The time has come to choose. Time has come to move beyond press releases, if both the parties are the well wishers of Kashmiri society, particularly the healthcare, which is in need of care.

Irfan Tramboo is a Health Correspondent at Kashmir Vision.  He tweets at : @irfan_tramboo

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