Budgam: It was supposed to cater to a population of several thousands living in more than fifty villages in three districts: Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian. But the new building of the Sub-District Hospital (SDH) is awaiting completion for the last more than a decade, even as the old building is staring at imminent collapse.
The new building of SDH Pakherpora, about six kilometres from the nearest town of Chrar-i-Sharif in Budgam district, was sanctioned by the Omar Abdullah-led government in the early 2000s.
Construction work was started in 2009 by the Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) at an estimated cost of Rs 15.45 crore, as per official figures accessed by Kashmir Reader.
The new hospital building, which is being constructed at Pakherpora’s Mohanpora locality barely half a kilometer from the main square where the old hospital stands, is currently being funded under the Prime Minister’s Development Project (PMDP), announced by the central government in the aftermath of the 2014 floods in the valley, an official informed.
An official at JKPCC said that the project has been recently taken up under the ‘Languishing Projects’ head to expedite the construction process.
More than 80 percent of the funds for the project have been released, as per official figures, but the construction work is not yet over. The new hospital building still awaits a boundary wall.
Of the more than Rs 12.44 crore funds released, only Rs 8.1 crore, accounting for a little over 50 percent of the estimated cost, have been spent so far, official data reveals.
Now, just when locals from Pakherpora and adjacent villages were expecting the new building to get operational, the construction work has been caught in a new quagmire.
The owner of the land on which the hospital building has been constructed and which technically should now belong to the Health Department, recently built several shops at the hospital’s main entry, virtually blocking it.
Locals told Kashmir Reader that at the time the land was taken, the owner, who also happens to be the village head, was promised by the then government that he will be returned part of the land – which did not happen.
When the land or even compensation did not come, the owner built the shops at the hospital entry “to get the land on his own,” a local said.
The locals flayed the government for “improper” takeover of the land. “Why did the authorities not fence the land right after they took it over? How could they allow the owner to construct such a number of shops in broad day light? It implies that the government has not properly taken possession of the land,” Fayaz Ahmad, a resident of Pakherpora, said.
Locals as well as hospital staffers rue the delay in the construction of the new building, which they say would help people in fifty villages, including those within Pulwama and Shopian districts given Pakherpora’s proximity to them.
“What if there is a disease outbreak, God forbid? We just have five beds in the lone ward here,” one of the doctors posted at the old hospital building said.
Besides patients, night staffers too have been compelled to cramp in a single room due to the space shortage, putting them at risk of contracting Covid-19, added the doctor.
He said that the old building is not only too small but also unsafe, as it has developed cracks over the years including in the roof of the night staff room.
Six medical officers and two consultants, besides a gynaecologist and paramedics, use the night staff room, especially during winters and rains, the doctor said.
The space shortage at the old building has also deprived the populace of an X-ray machine and maternity section. A doctor said that there was literally no space for the facilities.
A resident of Pakherpora complained that despite the area having the so-called SDH, people had to travel several kilometres to other hospitals for an X-ray, while expecting mothers faced much difficulty in getting even routine check-ups done.
Chief Medical Officer Budgam, Dr Tajamul Hussain Khan, said he hoped the new hospital would be operational “as soon as possible”.
Dr Khan did not specify any fixed timeline for the completion of the project, saying right now the health department was focused on containing the Covid-19 pandemic.
A health official said that he expected the new hospital building to be operational by March 2021.
As for the dispute with the land owner, the CMO said that the issue was to be resolved by the district administration. Kashmir Reader called Deputy Commissioner Budgam, Shahbaz Ahmad Mirza, several times, but he did not reply.
General Manager (Central) at JKPCC, Showkat Ahmad Dar, said a funding issue in the hospital building construction had been resolved and work will be completed soon.