Work on new building drags on, though CMO says it will be complete in ‘3 months’
Anantnag: Seven years after it was declared unsafe by the Roads and Buildings department, the battered building of Sub-District Hospital (SDH) Bijbehara continues to be the only health facility that thousands of people visit day in and day out, while work on the new building remains far from completion.
The SDH caters to Bijbehara town but is also the only major health facility for dozens of villages in Anantnag and Pulwama districts of south Kashmir. The building of the hospital was severely damaged in the devastating floods of 2014, following which the R&B Department declared it as unsafe.
“There were some major cracks in the walls and the ceilings and the floors had suffered extensive damage. Continuous use of the building meant putting precious human lives at stake. So our department declared the building unsafe following a proper audit,” a source in the R&B department told Kashmir Reader.
The then PDP-BJP government announced a new 50-bed block to be constructed in the same compound. The foundation stone was laid by then minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Abdul Rehman Veeri, in 2018.
“The project was to be completed at an estimated cost of 14.47 crore rupees by the Jammu and Kashmir Police Housing Corporation, with an added focus on timely completion, given the fact that the old building was unsafe,” a source in the hospital told Kashmir Reader.
Four years have passed since, however, and the building is nowhere near completion. Patients, doctors and attendants continue to throng the old dilapidated building.
A highly placed source in the department said that inter-departmental dealings and unforeseen delays during 2019 (revocation of Article 370) and 2020 (the Covid lockdown) have caused the delay in readying the new building.
“Besides, the pandemic has meant that the whole focus of the department shifted to make the existing hospitals capable of coping up with the disease,” the source said, adding that permissions to remove power lines and other interdepartmental modalities also added to the delay.
Locals, however, allege that the hospital has always been neglected by the authorities. “Go to any other SDH in Kashmir and then visit this one, you will see how stark the difference is,” a drug store owner outside the hospital said.
Other locals added that there was a shortage of staff, defunct machinery, and even the generator of the hospital was not working. “Completion of this new block has been primarily hit because the authorities have always overlooked the needs of people in Bijbehara and continue to do so,” a local resident told Kashmir Reader.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Anantnag, Mukhtar Ahmad Shah, told Kashmir Reader that there were some issues in the tendering of internal works of the building, which now stand sorted.
“The work is going on in full swing and I think it will be completed in 3 months,” Shah told Kashmir Reader.