Sickness of our healthcare

The state’s healthcare system is limping, but somehow, it manages to serve the people well. Credit goes to the doctors, who are up on toes and are doing their bit with whatever resources they are provided with. They also get roughed up several times, but they don’t give up.

As per data, there isn’t sufficient number of specialist medicos available, especially in the peripheral healthcare system, but still available human resources are doing wonders. Imagine, with just 52 gynaecologists available, the number of deliveries carried out in peripheries as per the data available on the website of Director Health Services, Kashmir is 6158. Commendable. I am excluding Srinagar, Leh and Kargil.

However, ultimately the brunt is borne by the medicos, be it for any sort of alleged medical negligence, or any other thing.

What is the government doing? Nothing, if you ask me. The establishment seems to be intent on creating a colossal infrastructure everywhere. This is putting a huge burden on the state exchequer, and at the same time, there isn’t an iota of positive change in the existing system.

A colossal building created for Public Health Centre, Chanapora is a case in point, a huge four storey building, with countless room for a PHC, are you kidding me?

Reportedly, more than Rs 15 crore have been spent on the creation of this beyond-comprehension building. Guess, what lies adjacent to the building: valley’s lone maternity hospital, Lalla Ded and District Hospital Budgam, the institutions which could have been managed with this money. But no, the concerned MLA had to show that he is somebody: Hercules, I guess.

It didn’t stop there: the building was inaugurated thrice by different politicians. The building is still lying unused. Just 5-6 rooms are occupied, and it is still running as a PHC. Why Rs 15 crores for God’s sake, if it is not making any redeeming difference? The huge building run by a Medical Officer.

The government, it seems, is not ready to buy the argument that they are running short of manpower. They really are not. They really don’t seem to understand the simple mathematics—which is in a sense alarming—the doctors-patient ratio in the entire J&K is 1:3500. It is 1:250 in Kashmir. It should have been, as per the international standards —1:17.

They also seem not to understand the known fact that a good doctor-patient ratio is considered a sign of efficient healthcare worldwide. This seems not to be the case in J&K after analyzing the figures, especially in peripheral maternity care. Or, maybe, the Government is not bothered about the worldwide standards. Perhaps, because even after having acute shortage of paediatrics, Child Mortality Rate has so far been good in Kashmir, after Kerala. Miracle, I must say, why would they bother about other standards, the system is miraculously doing good, isn’t it?

Miracles don’t keep happening, and perhaps, they don’t happen, especially in our part of the world. The day healthcare system stops working ‘miraculously,’ the system might gear itself up after all. But that would be too late ‘unfortunately.’

The need of the hour is to come up with a comprehensive healthcare policy, which is ‘criminally’ lacking in the state. There is a need to stop this craziness of going on and on with the creation of extra infrastructure in the state. Take it from me, it is not doing any good. It may be doing wonders to certain quarters, but not to the general masses, mind you!

Focus should be on enhancing manpower in peripheral healthcare. Right now, it seems like the infrastructure is being created for the ghosts to live in. When the major District and Sub District hospitals are facing the shortage of manpower, who is actually going to work in your newly established buildings?

Take the example of District Ganderbal: The creation of infrastructure is so irrational that you have got four different facilities at a radius of 6-8 Kilometres. More so, when there is a super speciality care institute SKIMS available at Soura: 20 minutes of drive!

But no, vote bank politics mars the entire system, not letting it work in a proper and rational way. Politicians, I suggest, should not have any say in the matters of healthcare policy making. They really mess it up, and they really have. Don’t believe me? Visit Ganderbal.

Amid all this, the cry for running hospitals in peripheries round the clock needs to be shunned—the cry which is majorly coming out of the mouths of politicians—it is not workable. Instead, if there is really a need, pool the required manpower at a certain place and make that facility functional round the clock. Everything cannot run round the clock, that too, when you are running short of everything. Do politicians fathom policy making? They rarely do, I guess.

(Irfan Tramboo is a Health Correspondent at ‘Kashmir Vision’)

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