NHM employees’ strike affects healthcare

NHM employees’ strike affects healthcare
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One doctor attends 70,000 people in Budgam

BUDGAM: The healthcare system in central Kashmir’s Budgam district has literally gone from “bad to worse” in the past month, courtesy the continuous strike of employees working under the National Health Mission (NHM) across the state.
The NHM employees who are on strike to press for their demands including regularisation of services and equal pay are reluctant to end the strike as yet.
Around 70 percent of the state’s health care facilities, including primary health centres, community health centres, sub-district hospitals and district hospitals, are already facing a shortage of regular doctors, and now the NHM strike has worsened the situation.
In Khag Medical Block, besides two MBBS doctors, four more doctors were deployed under the NHM. But the state of affairs is such that among the two MBBS doctor, one is on leave for two months, and the four NHM doctors are on strike.
Currently, a single medical officer is on hand to attend to more than 70,000 people of the whole block, turning healthcare here into a “mess”.
Similarly, work in all urban health centres has also been affected due to the strike. Nazir Ahmad Wani, a Dalwan, Budgam, resident suffering from high fever, said that he had reached the public health centre with great difficulty but was disappointed to find no staff there due to the strike.
Most of the institutions in this backward district have been virtually closed for a month now. “Above 60 percent doctors posted here are NHM employees, their strike has severely hit the patient care,” said a medical officer, Dr Mudasir.
In the remote areas of Budgam, most of the primary health centres are run by NHM doctors and medical staff.
“Although the health centres are open now, the doctors are nowhere to be seen,” said Shabir Bhat of Khansahab.
“We are living in hilly areas, it took us hours to reach here from our village after facing so many hardships due to snow accumulated on the roads. But doctors are not available here,” said a resident of Sutharan.
At least 355 employees of the NHM are on strike in Budgam, out of which approximately 130 are doctors.
“The strike has badly hit the health services here. We are managing with the regular doctors, but the work load has doubled,” said BMO Charar-e-Sharief Dr Masroora.
She added that in Sub-district Hospital Charar-e-Sharief, a total of seven NHM doctors, plus 25 paramedical employees of NHM, who were working here are now on strike since the last month.
“It is very difficult to manage the rush of patients in this far-off area of Budgam,” she added
Hospital sources said that besides causing heavy work load to the regular doctors and para-medical staff, the patient care has also got affected in SDH Beerwah, Magam, Khansahab, Chattergam, Chadoora and Nagam as the regular doctors present in the hospitals cannot tackle the rush of cases, thereby causing the patients immense hardship.
An official in the Health Department said that being an essential service, the doctors should not be on strike. “In SDH, we are managing as we have permanent doctors, though they are overburdened. But in PHCs, the situation is very grim,” said BMO Chadoora.
“I have 60 employees of NHM, and their strike call has affected us badly. We are dumbfounded as to how to tackle the flow of patients coming from far-off areas,” BMO Magam Dr Syed Tahir Sajad said.
“Unfortunately we have more NHM doctors than the permanent staff, their strike has hit health centres as these doctors are posted in all hilly areas,” said Dr Masroora in Charar-e-Sharief.
“I have mostly NHM doctors posted in the hospital as well as in primary health centres, which are completely dependant on these doctors,” she added.
The people from different areas have many a times slammed the health centres complaining of a perenial shortage of doctors. For example, in Kralnewa village of Khansahab block, villagers locked the hospital thrice here to protest the doctors’ shortage.
Similarly, in Khag Medical Block, PHC Lassipora and PHC Poshker are also almost locked.