Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Face of a corrupt system: Woefully inadequate maternity wards of Srinagar's two main medical hospitals

While ruling politicians are skimming the system and separatists are busy denouncing one and all, ordinary citizens are suffering ......

1. Multiple problems plague Lal Ded

Excelsior Correspondent

Srinagar, Jan 19: Lal Ded Hospital, Valleys only maternity hospital, is in complete mess. Hospital has become a junkyard of the garbage without proper hygiene. Hundreds of women patients visiting the hospital everyday blame hospital administration of mismanagement and carelessness. While as the administration says patients are suffering due to lack of funds, infrastructure and shortage of man power.

But between the blame games, the poor patients in the hospital are left unattended and some times patients have to leave the hospital without any treatment. Hospital has become the symbol of corruption in the form of bakshish. Swaping of babies even some times child theft has become the common complaint of the patients.

The oxygen plant in the hospital is nonfunctional from past one month. The incinerator - used for disposing anatomical waste - stops working after every 10 days due to unavailability of fuel. The heating system is stopped for several hours even during the night time, in these chilly days, when the mercury dips below freezing point.

Patients also cry for the necessary medicines needed even at the time of emergency. The life saving drugs are too missing from the hospital.

Accepting that there are certain problems in the hospital, the Superintendent of LD Hospital, Bashir Ahmad Shah, blames it to lack of funds, insufficient staff and over burden of patients.
"We have 125 vacancies in the hospital and despite our requests to higher authorities these vacancies are not being filled or replaced by substitutes", says Shah. "These vacancies are in both the categories of doctors and paramedical staff. Shortage of the staff is hampering the work of hospital".

Shah says the hospital is always over burdened with patients. The 500 bed hospital with only 420 beds functional receives everyday about 120 indoor patients and relieves only 40 patients. So on average there are 600 patients admitted in the hospital which results in the doubling of patients.

About the budget and funds, Shah says, "Funds are very poor and less to meet the needs of hospital. This year's budget has exhausted three months earlier so we cannot provide drugs to patients."

The problem in the sewage disposal also lies in the shortage of staff. "We have dearth of staff for segregation and proper disposal of the hospital waste", Shah said, adding, "However, incinerator is functioning properly and we are disposing anatomical waste of Bone and Joint Hospital and Rainawari Hospital too."

But the experts in the field of garbage disposal say the segregation and disposal of the hospital waste in the hospital is not done according the required norms. They also warn that the treatment of this hazardous hospital waste has negative repercussions on the environment.
"We have written to the manufacturer of the Oxygen plant who is bound in providing service to us", says Shah, hastening his handicap in repairing the oxygen plant, "but the manufacturer has replied that he is busy and could not come for some time".

But the corruption and mismanagement has no answers in the administration as any body who visits hospital can see it.

Inaytullah Magray, who has brought his expected wife for delivery in the hospital and is admitted in the ward 305, narrates the awful tale of bakshish. "It starts from the time of making the admission ticket, the persons in the counter asks for the chai and says, 'these days it is very difficult to get admitted here so you are the lucky one as your wife has been allotted a bed'."
According to Magray the demand of money does not stop till the patient is discharged from the hospital. "When the Dai (female sweeper) come for sweeping the ward she asks for the money and this continues till you remain in the hospital", he says.

This happens everywhere in the hospital, be at operation theatre or drug counter, says Magray, where ever you go for the help money is demanded. And the demand and amount doubles if the delivered baby is a male child as the case happened with Magray.

However, Magray says, that the money is not demanded by the doctors but paramedics and other hospital staff and they too constantly deny that it is a bribe but chai or bakshish by own will of the patient and her attendants. As the birth of a child is blessing so offering money becomes necessary.

Swapping of a male child with female and theft of children with the cooperation of the staff in labour room and hospital is also blamed by people. Recently a woman was caught while trying to flee with a baby boy from the pediatric ward of the hospital. But some of the attendants got hold of her. Woman was later handed to police. In March 2007, a baby boy was taken and no trace of him has been found till date. There are few complaints regarding theft and exchange of babies in the Police Station Rajbagh.

However, the Superintendent of the hospital says that the bakshish may be prevailing in the hospital but he has no knowledge of that. "If such is the case people should bring into my notice. I got to know once that some employees have taken the bribe and suspended five employees. But people must cooperative for that, if they pay willingly what can be done".

2. SKIMS' maternity hospital suffers from 'host of diseases'

The Daily Etalaat

Srinagar, Jan 25: Rabia of Zoonimar Soura, a new-mother, finds it hard to feed her baby because she fears the baby might get hurt for the bed she is occupying is shared by another woman. This is not a one-off case. Sharing of beds by two patients is a norm in the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences' maternity hospital.

"There is a huge rush of patients in the hospital and the number of beds is less. As a result new-mothers are forced to share beds," a junior resident doctor, wishing not to be named, told etala'at. And because of this, new-mothers have to bear the brunt. "I find it hard to rest. I am always afraid I might hurt the other patient or that she may hurt me," said Mehmooda of Mallabagh, who shared her bed with Rabia.

Rabia added: "I have not fed my baby properly. How can you when there is danger of the baby being hit by the other patient on the bed?"

One of the attendants, Firdousa of Zadibal chipped in. "There should be more number of beds here. Patients are facing a lot of problems in such a situation."

The maternity hospital, located just outside the premier SKIMS at Soura caters to patients from a host of areas like Sonamarg, Kangan, Sumbal, Ganderbal, Buchpora, Soura and many areas of the old city including Khanyar, Fateh Kadal, Nowhatta etc.

But the limited number of faculty members in the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics make matters even worse. "There are four faculty members currently working here who are supported by a handful of senior and junior resident doctors," said a senior gynaecologist at the hospital. "

Although two years back two senior faculty members retired, those two posts are yet to be filled by the government," she added. "To add to that, we have only three beds in the labour room and if an extra case comes up, we find it really hard to cater to all of them," she stressed. "Sometimes manhandling of doctors by the relatives of patients becomes a huge problem."

The government has allotted a portion of land for the construction of a 100-bedded maternity hospital at Soura, the work on it is yet to start. "Government made tall promises about the construction of the hospital. Those promises have yet to be fulfilled," the doctor signed off.


B&J hospital turned into garbage dump

We don’t have incinerator facility: Deputy Med Supdt

Abid Bhat / Rising KashmirRising Kashmir News, Srinagar: The lawns of Bone and Joint Surgery Hospital Barzulla’s have been turned into garbage dump as the hospital lacks incinerator facility.

The problem has increased as the men of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) are not clearing the wastage dump from the area.

“The main hurdle in the management of the waste here is a lack of incinerator in this hospital,” said Dr Sayeed Ahmad, Deputy Medical Superintend BJS hospital.

“We have to transport the biomedical waste to the incinerators at the LD hospital and some times there is delay in transporting the hazardous waste to LD.”The filth lying in the compounds is not only a serious threat to the public health but to the staff of the hospital as well. The hospital staff say that there should have been a mechanism to dispose off the waste. “Its transportation is a length procedure,” they said.

“I have seen the hospital staff burning the waste in open as they cannot remove this hazardous waste. In the morning the rag pickers look for the discarded syringes and other plastic material at this dumping site,” said Mohammad Yousuf, a canteen boy in the hospital.

The SMC has refused to lift the waste from the hospital.

Confirming this, the solid waste management officer at SMC Manzoor Ahmad told Rising Kashmir, “We had sent the dumper to Bone and Joints to remove the waste from the site. When we dumped the waste at Achen, it was found some that some biomedical waste was present”.He added, “We cannot handle the biomedical waste and it is up to the hospital authorities to find a solution to the problem.

The bio-medical waste needs to be segregated and labelled into bags at the point of generation after which its transportation and disposal can be carried out by using the approved methods”. Manzoor further said, “The hospital needs to make sure that this waste is not mixed with the garbage as its improper disposal puts to risk our staff also”.

About lack of this facility in hospital, Deputy Medical Superintendent BJS said that the proposal for installing an incinerator is pending with the higher authorities. “We have been demanding an incinerator for more than two years now and still no head way has been made on the issue,” he added.

For SMHS docs Sundays are fun days

Attend only critical patients after call from hospital

Faheem Qadri / Rising Kashmir, Srinagar: Doctors at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar celebrate Sundays at home and attend to patients only in case of emergency and that too if the hospital administration calls them.

Injured in an accident, Jehangir Malik had to wait five hours to get an ultrasonography done as the doctors in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) were absent.

The doctor who was to be present on duty was celebrating the holiday at home and arrived to the hospital only when she was repeatedly called up by the Chief Medical Officer of SMHS.

Asked about her absence from duty, the doctor said, “I am not responsible. It is the administration who should take care of things. On Sunday the doctors here are on call and whenever the need arises we are called up.”Javaid Ahmad, Malik’s brother said, “What does this mean that a doctor will be called up only when needed? What about the emergency case like this? By the time the doctor reached here my brother could have died. God forbid if anything would have happened to him who would have been held responsible?”

The Chief Medical Officer on duty called up five doctors but nobody was ready to visit the hospital.

As no doctor turned up, a doctor from a hostel was called up to handle the critical situation.Besides Jehangir there were seven other patients including three females waiting for a doctor to turn up.“We are waiting here. This is the only thing we can do. Officers here tell us it is none of their concerns,” said Assadullah, father of Rozy Jan, a patient from Chrar-e-Sharief.

The attendants of the patients had a scuffle with the doctors when they finally arrived as they had to wait hours together with their patients withering in pain.

“It is 4 pm and there is no doctor in the hospital. SMHS is the mother of all hospitals in Kashmir. The condition of smaller hospitals can only be guessed,” said Abdul Hamid, an attendant.

A patient Muhammad Akbar of Beeru Budgam is lying on a stretcher at Ward 6 for the past three days as the number of beds is not adequate. Admitted on the last Friday of the month after a brain hemorrhage, he was taken to an emergency ward and discharged the same day.

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