Helpless patients bear brunt of SKIMS controversy

Helpless patients bear brunt of SKIMS controversy
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Sufferings aggravated as resident doctors continue strike

Srinagar: Patient care was badly affected at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura on Wednesday as the authorities had to cancel routine surgeries and limit outpatients due to the resident doctors’ strike for the second consecutive day against the removal of the institute’s director.
Patients coming from far-flung areas had to suffer as junior doctors in SKIMS Soura stayed away from both general wards and the out-patient department (OPD). The doctors are on strike against the removal of Dr A G Ahangar, the institute’s ousted Director, after a TV sting caught three SKIMS doctors engaged in illegal private practice.
The striking doctors deserted all wards and routine operation theatres as they only attended to the hospital’s emergency services and casualty ward.
Haleema, 55, had started early Monday from her Kokernag home to reach SKIMS Soura for an MRI test. But the authorities told her that the test could not be done as the staff was on strike.
“I have been waiting here for three hours, but no one is present to attend to me. I left my home at 7 in the morning and reached here at 9. But I was disappointed to see the MRI section deserted,” she said.
Shamima Bano, an elderly patient from Pattan, told Kashmir Reader that she had taken an appointment for various medical examinations more than a month ago, but the doctors’ strike had put her on the waiting list again.
“Travelling from Pattan to this institute consumes our full day and money, but the striking employees do not understand our problems,” she said.
Hundreds of patients like Shamima and Haleema who have rushed to SKIMS for its specialised medical care were left to fend for themselves as the staff, including both doctors and non-gazetted employees, continued observing the strike.
Representatives of the SKIMS Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) made rounds of the hospital wards to enforce the strike as some staff members continued their routine work, ignoring the call. Many out-patients had to turn back home. Temporary arrangements were made to attend to emergency and medico-legal cases.
According to official sources, nearly 50 surgeries have been cancelled at SKIMS this week due to the absence of junior doctors and theatre staff.
“The senior doctors attended only a few emergency cases while the rest of the patients had to leave with another date, disappointed,” they said.
At the Neurosurgery Department, most of the surgeries have been postponed due to the thin staff presence.
“It is not possible to attend to all patients in the wards because half the senior doctors are on vacation while the rest attended to patients in the emergency areas and casualty,” said a senior doctor wishing anonymity.
Similarly, the General Medicine, Gastroenterology, Urology and Cancer wards wore a deserted look at 3 pm on Wednesday as the only nursing staff available was attending to patients already admitted.
“I have been suffering from breathlessness since yesterday because of an acute pain in the right side of my chest. No doctor attended me since morning while those at the emergency section are overburdened” said Abdul Karim, who is admitted to the General Medicine ward.
Ali Muhammad, a cancer patient with multiple health issues, had come to the hospital on Tuesday morning from Anantnag with his family. However, he had to wait till Wednesday afternoon before a senior doctor could see him.
“I couldn’t get treatment for at least 24 hours as there was no one in the ward. Today a senior doctor came and advised me to go back home,” he said.
There were many patients moving about in the hospital in pain and confusion but without anyone to help them.
SKIMS Soura Medical Superintendent Dr Amin Tabish admitted that patients were suffering due to the ongoing resident doctors’ strike. However, he said, the senior doctors had managed the patients in the hospital to a large extent.
“Although we admitted general and emergency patients on both the striking days, we try to limit the admissions and surgeries,” he said.
He claimed that the faculty members had managed over 1,900 OPD patients for two days while nearly 33 major surgeries had taken place.
“There is definitely a problem in the Institute. But we are trying to solve the issue with the resident doctors as a committee of senior doctors is trying to negotiate with them,” Dr Tabish said.
An RDA representative, Dr Zubair Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader that they would continue with the strike till the Director is reinstated.
“We may boycott emergency duties also because the government can’t punish the Director like this,” he said.

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