BUDGAM: In Khag medical block of Budgam district, a man slung his mother’s body over his shoulder a few days ago, to carry her to the block Primary Health Centre (PHC). But the PHC’s lack of facilities forced the doctor he consulted to refer her to a Srinagar tertiary hospital for specialised treatment. Unfortunately, as is all too common for the poor, she breathed her last before she could reach there.
Such cases become visible only when they get highlighted on social media or when the patient is connected to an influential person. “But when a victim is poor, no one cares,” rued Adil Shah, an engineering student.
“This is not the single such case but several similar cases have taken place in the past in this medical block,” he added.
A crisis illustrated by the fact that Khag medical block is short of nearly 33 doctors, if one consults the World Health Organisation (WHO) norm of 1:2,000 in rural areas.
This particular tehsil of Budgam district comprises 65 villages that have been deprived of a sub-district hospital. It is a hilly tehsil, located in the foothills of the Pir Panjal mountains, nearly 50 kilometres from Srinagar.
At present, Khag medical block has three redundant primary health centres: PHC Khag, PHC Poshker and PHC Lassipora, of which the last runs from private accommodation.
According to official sources, the sorry state of healthcare in this medical block owes to the fact that there are only two MBBS and five ISM doctors here to look after a population of more than 70 thousand.
One fails to understand how two MBBS doctors will meet the requirements of the huge population of such a densely populated area.
From the past many years, the people of Khag and adjoining villages like Drung, Gogaldara, Suthrhran, Habber, Shonglipora, Sugin, Poshkar, Dalwash, Surish, Malpora, Naserpora, Khanpora, Fojipora, Traphy, Sugin, etc have been demanding a sub-district hospital at Khag tehsil headquarters, as the existing PHC lacks facilities.
“Even for minor injuries, people have to move to Srinagar for treatment, which creates a lot of inconvenience for the people of the area; both in terms of money and time as well,” said Sheikh Sartaj, a local.
“The authorities and the politicians seem to be ignoring us. So what is the point in having the National Rural Health Mission Scheme, which states that medicare facilities will be provided to people at their doorsteps,” he added.
People face more problems during the winter months when these far-flung villages are cut off from the tehsil headquarters.
“Politicians come here to secure votes at the time of elections with promises of providing us a sub-district hospital. So did the former chief minister. He promised to develop a health care facility but, unfortunately, he too forgot us and did not pay any attention to our area,” Sartaj said.
“People were expecting much more from him, at least a sub-district hospital. But it seems he is not interested. Hence I don’t feel shy in saying that he is no different from other local political stooges who only came here to fetch votes,” said Fayaz, another local.
“We raised this issue many times in the past but nothing has been done so far. We are suffering a lot. The PHC lacks all basic facilities, compelling us to move to Srinagar hospitals,” said another Khag resident, Malik Mushtaq Ahmad.
“A relative of mine from Checkpora village died four years ago. She was pregnant and died on the way to Srinagar. If we had a maternity facility at Khag, her life could have been saved,” Malik said.
The people of adjacent villages face the same fate. Residents there said shifting patients to Srinagar hospitals is not easy for them as most of the population of the area is poor and cannot afford to travel.
“Khag is a hilly area, and most of the population of its 50 villages lives below the poverty line. If facilities were available here, then there would be no need to travel to Srinagar. The hospital does not have a child specialist, a surgeon, a gynecologist, orthopedist or an ophthalmologist. There are no facilities like USG, ECG, etc,” Sartaj said.
“A few years back, the administrative department had moved a proposal for the up-gradation of PHC Khag to the level of Community Health Centre (CHC). But the proposal is still pending in administrative section. People say the PHC not only lacks proper medical facilities but the centre is without a proper heating or even lighting system,” rued a local shopkeeper.
“There is no lighting in this primary center, and doctors work under torch light. During evening hours, they make use of candles and mobile torches. There isn’t any heating system inside the centre, and people have to bear the cold during this winter season.”
Even though former chief minister Omar Abdullah contested elections from Beerwah constituency, and people believe he won due to the brisk support of Khag voters, but “Omar so far has not even bothered to visit the area”, said Asif.
Chief Medical Officer Budgam G M Dar said that the PHC is under the vigil of the government medical college (GMC). “It is their responsibility to depute medical officers and fill the rest of the vacant posts there. But till date, nothing has been done,” Dar said.
He further said that approving a sub-district hospital is done in district development board meetings. “Once a board approves it, the file is sent to Finance and GAD for final approval,” he said.
According to a report, Khag block is second in the priority list for getting an SDH. “At number one priority is Soibug, whose population exceeds one lakh, while Khag medical block has a population of 7,000,” he said.