‘Private practice by SKIMS doctors won’t be tolerated’
Srinagar: Shortage of staff and delay in recruitment are holding up the planned expansion of Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura, the institute’s director, Dr Omar Javed Shah, told Kashmir Reader. He added that the institute will soon go for fast-track recruitment to resolve the issues.
“The most important hindrance is staff shortage. Now I have formed a fast-track recruitment plan to induct staff in various cadre in the institute. Resident doctors, who are the backbone of the hospital, will be provided benefits as per their demands, so that they work with dedication. The junior residency programme, which was stopped in SKIMS, will also be re-started soon,” Shah said in an interview with Kashmir Reader.
SKIMS Soura has also faced inordinate delays in various infrastructure expansion projects due to lack of funds from the government. A Rs 700-crore budget for the institute is pending since 2013. It has affected the construction of a SKIMS maternity hospital, geriatrics department, genetics centre, and new OPD and Emergency blocks.
Shah said his priority was not the expansion of the working area unnecessarily. He said he first wants to make every existing facility comfortable for common people.
“I want to cut the waiting time for patients by opening more counters and by introducing a fully computerised system of registration,” he said.
Shah, a renowned gastrointestinal surgeon, said that private practice by SKIMS Soura doctors would not be allowed.
“Private practice is absolutely banned for SKIMS doctors and administrators. They must refrain from it, otherwise strict action will be taken against them. People must tell us if they see any of our doctors indulging in private practice. We have a special cell for that purpose to take action on complaints,” he said.
Early this year, the government had removed Dr AG Ahangar from the Director’s post and suspended three senior doctors — Dean and Head of Department of General Surgery, Dr Altaf Kirmani, Head of Neurology Department Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, and Head of Neonatology Department Dr Wajid Ali — after the trio was found indulging in private practice against the institution’s rules.
“I am making it clear to everyone: please refrain from private practice because I don’t want to lose skilled doctors like we lost three senior faculty members,” said Shah, who joined SKIMS as Director in January 2018.
Shah said the working of SKIMS Soura has suffered in the past because many directors were unnecessarily keeping themselves busy by interfering in every affair.
“I have decentralised the institution to allow everyone to work as per their ability and responsibility. It will go a long way in improving the management of the hospital,” he said.
He said the punishment that followed the fraud in pharmacy department would act as a deterrent for everyone.
“I assure you, no one will be spared. I am humble with everyone but when it comes to work, I am very tough. Believe me, I won’t let anyone escape punishment if he becomes callous or corrupt,” Shah said. “No employee who is guilty of fraud will be reinstated anytime soon. I am trying to find out basic problems in the pharmacy department and whether appropriate punishment has been given.”
An inquiry conducted by the SKIMS pharmacy department into the sale of expired surgical equipment and consumables had indicted a chief pharmacist. Recent reports suggested that the SKIMS administration was going to reinstate the suspended chief pharmacist.
On the issue of expensive treatment, Shah said that SKIMS will introduce a health insurance scheme for patients to ease their burden.
“We have the best clinicians and surgeons in various departments but some diseases like cancer make people compromised physically, mentally and financially. For them, we are coming up with a medical insurance scheme which will ease the burden on people at such times of distress. We have to do this because government hospitals cannot afford to give everything free to patients,” he said.
“We are also trying to start organ-based specialties at the institute so that precision treatment is introduced,” he said.
Asked why some people criticise radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, Dr Shah said these therapies have side effects and even lead to complications, but they have become necessary in cancer treatment due to lack of alternative advanced techniques.
“Some people criticise us that we follow an obsolete method of cancer treatment in Kashmir. I must agree, partly, to this, as we are far behind compared to the west. But we have to see the situation in our country and its social and economic conditions. That is why we face conflict in applying the knowledge of the west here,” he said.
The SKIMS administration is opening three fair price shops to replace drug counters following Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s intervention in the last Governing Body meeting, as Kashmir Reader reported on April 21. The decision was taken a meeting attended by senior faculty members, engineers and pharmacy experts.