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.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Dismal State of Health Care in Kashmir

Two reports highlight on-going crisis in the medical care

All is Not Well With SKIMS Soura

Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Accusing the authorities at SKIMS Soura of being insensitive in rendering their services during these trying times, patients and their attendants say that they are being made to suffer. Blame it on the prevailing unrest which has also increased the incidence of injuries, each day scores of patients are brought to SKIMS with leg injuries. Majority of these patients need to undergo ‘Doppler test’ which diagnosis the actual problem related to leg or foot.

Now call it a travesty of our medical system, the Doppler machine at this premier health institute is defunct for the last 16 months. So as an alternative, the patients with leg injuries are asked to go for MRI, which certainly costs more and burns a hole in their pockets besides of course needlessly overburdening the facility.

Medical Superintendent, Dr. Syed Amin Tabish told ‘Kashmir Images’ that “the existing Doppler has become obsolete and then its spare parts too are not available in the market.”

But other sources within the hospital have a different explanation to share. They say due to unrest here the ‘concerned maintenance wing’ which is from outside the state, is not willing to visit Valley these days.

They say given the need of this facility, the SKIMS has already procured four new Doppler machines which they say are lying with the Customs authorities and will be installed and made functional within a week.

But the question is, why were these machines not ordered 16 months ago when the already installed machine became defunct?

Cardiac patients coming here for conducting investigations like ECHO and TMT tests at SKIMS’ Cath lab are sent back as both these machines too are lying defunct in the institute for the last couple of months.

“Some minor problems are there in the Cath lab but it will be fully functional after three days,” Dr. Tabish assured.

Informed sources also said that the USG machine of the Gastroenterology department too is lying defunct for the last one year giving tough to the patients.

“Yes it is defunct but then there are 3-4 other ultra sound machines in the hospital which cater to the need of the patients,” said the SKIMS Medical Superintendent, Dr. Tabish.

“If such is the case then why patients here are given the post-dates of 6 months for this test?” questions another senior consultant at SKIMS who wished not to be named for obvious reasons.

Patients suffering Kidney failures or pain too are made to suffer further as the ‘Dialysis machine’ too has lost its efficiency. The machine that is meant to cater to 20 cases a day is not able to meet the demand of even six cases a day, sources said.

“Here (SKIMS) doctors told me that the dialysis machines have developed snags and they are not functioning properly and suggested to do it privately. But I am poor and can’t afford to go through the procedure at private clinics,” said a patient, Shabir Ahmed of Habba Kadal.

While agreeing that the same machine has lost its efficiency, Dr. Tabish said, “I agree it has lost its efficiency; but now we have already received the new one (machine) which will be functional within a month.”

Informed sources told ‘Kashmir Images’ that previously the cancer patients of Below Poverty Line (BPL) category were charged nothing for tests like CBC, KFT, LFT, LDH, Blood Sugar, CTK, et. al. but now the hospital authorities have, for the last two months, started charging them on the bills of Regional Cancer Centre.

However, the hospital authorities deny the allegation, although some of such bills are also lying with this newspaper office.

Hospital authorities say such patients need to fill ‘Exemption Form’ easily available in the hospital that helps them in getting relaxation in their charges.

“This scheme is available only to the patients of BPL category while as everyone else needs to pay,” said Medical Superintendent SKIMS.

But when a cancer patient of BPL category tried to get the same form from the hospital counter, she was told that no such forms are available in the hospital.

“Hospital has banned all such forms and these days up to Rs 500 is given to those patients (BPL) who needs go for CT scan or MRI and for those tests forms are available in MS’s office,” said Hameeda Jan of Bohri Kadal.

Wounded Paradise

Nazir Ganaie (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: The ongoing crisis in the Kashmir Valley and the resultant curfews and restrictions has drastically slashed both the patient inflow and ante-natal checkup of expecting women, thereby taking toll on the health of the mother as well as the newborn.

Experts fear that lack of regular consultation during pregnancy and
the increasing number of "obstruct" cases, is resulting in high
mother-baby mortaility rate across the Valley.

“Due to the lack of ante-natal checkup, we have witnessed some cases that are very hard to manage and treat in these situations,” a doctor at Srinagar's Lal Ded Hospital said.

She said there has also been an increase in the referral cases to the
tertiary-care hospital and this, according to her, has added
challenges to the hospital administration. “We deal with such patients
with utmost care. Despite a handful of staff available, we try to
provide the best treatment possible to the patients,” she said.
However, officials at LD declined to show the exact figures of
mother-baby deaths, citing some technical problems as reasons.
Most expecting women have their first and longest ante-natal checkup
between weeks 8-12 of pregnancy. The doctors suggest that earlier the checkup, better for the patient; and there will also be check on the increasing mortality rate.

Meanwhile, patients admitted that due to lack of regular examination
during the period of pregnancy, they have to face lots of health
problems. “It has been difficult for patients to visit consultants
during the present Kashmir unrest. This has affected the maternity
care badly. I had to spend more days at the hospital because of some
complications,” said a patient Mehmooda from central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

Mehmooda’s newborn baby has been put on the ventilator and it is only her husband attending to the child at ward 218 of the hospital. Her other family members or relatives could not reach the hospital owing to the disturbed conditions, curfews and restrictions. Meanwhile, noted gynecologist and Principal Government Medical College Srinagar Dr Shahida Mir told Rising Kashmir that the lack of ante-natal checkup and regular examination poses a severe health hazard which can take toll on the lives of the patients.

“During ante-natal examination, complicacies get timely treatment
which is good for both mother as well as the baby. But the ongoing
crisis has put hurdles to this important checkup and is affecting
their health,” she said.

“We have been receiving several complicated cases and the number is ever rising. The prolonged curfews and restrictions across the Valley have crippled the OPD. But we have to remain firm to treat emergency cases,” Dr Mir said.

“We have been receiving several complicated cases and the number is ever increasing. Prolonged curfews and restrictions across Valley have crippled the OPD. But we have to remain firm to treat emergency cases,” she said.

Mir said that the morbidity rate among the patients is on increase and patients referred from different areas of the valley encounter many problems which later take toll on their health.

"During the ongoing disturbances morbidity rate has increased and patients complain of different problems,” she added.

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