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.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Woeful State of Kashmir's Healthcare System

Kashmir's healthcare system needs a massive overhaul. Does anyone care? Fida's commentary followed by two related articles

(Mr. Fida Iqbal, 47, was born in Sopore. He attended the D.A.V. School in Nayadyaar, Rainawari, and the Government Higher Secondary School in Sopore. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in Agriculture/Floriculture and Landscaping from Chowdhry Chottu Ram College at Muzaffarabad Nagar in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Iqbal works with the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department as a landscape architect. He enjoys kitchen gardening, reading writing, and is very a passionate and dedicated golf player.)

Crumbling Healthcare

Last week I missed my weekly column because of some unavoidable situation. One of my close relations required medical attention followed by some inevitable curative intervention. The whole schedule was more chaotic than challenging. As disciplined taxpayer I sought remedial help from the state run medical health system through proper channel. As earlier, even this time my experience with bewildered ‘sarkari’ healthcare system proved more disastrous. But this time round, I firmly managed to come out of state’s crumbling healing system to seek temporary refuge within the exploitative but comparatively safer cover of private healthcare system.

Followed by murkier but thriving real-estate trade, selling dreams of health and education is the most lucrative enterprises in Jammu & Kashmir state. A novel Nexus between exploiters, politicians and few devious elements within the administration has allowed these murky trades to flourish unabatedly. Healthcare is the most vital aspect of our survival and requires utmost attention and perfection with highest degree of honesty and sincerity. While on one hand, state run healthcare organization is in mess, the private healthcare system is out for a kill to mint money out of the desperation and sufferings of the common people. Lack of monitoring and proper legal control over private health sector has turned private health entrepreneurs’ into rogues.

Even after possessing huge infrastructure and qualified manpower, our state run health sector is in confusion since long; unable to provide proper healthcare service. Millions are spent for maintaining the sterile atmosphere within our hospitals, but almost every healthcare center is a potential pathogenic bomb, about to explode any time. Hospital acquired infections within our hospitals, particularly in post-operative stages are very common; in many cases leading to septicemia and ultimately excruciating death. In the first instance the surroundings and ambiance outside our hospitals is horrible, looking like gateways to a nightmarish departure. From rude response and treatment to disgraceful discharge the experience is painful. At every stage only favored few are catered with love and care and rest all are condemned to agonizing misery. Our ‘Shafa-khanas’ (temples of wellbeing) have turned into ‘Zabah-khanas’ (slaughter houses).

Certainly, the private healthcare sector is growing on modern scientific lines but their unfair trade practices and exorbitant price packages are disappointing. This sector, yet being in its nascent stage can be streamlined by proper regulation, restraining and weeding out unscrupulous exploitative elements. Unless, a separate suitable regulatory authority is constituted to monitor this growing sector, it will grow in a haphazard manner. Presently there is no regulation of rates, capacity and required infrastructure and qualified manpower. Monitoring of pollution status, sanitation and other ecological aspects within private health enterprises is almost zero. A cursory look within and outside these units provides a pathetic look; giving a damn to most vital aspect of healthcare—the pathogen factor. Several, virtual healthcare quackeries run out of shanties by unqualified persons either in connivance with the monitoring authorities or by exploiting loopholes within the existing regulatory rules.

Thank God! This time, I could manage a safe refuge within the existing private healthcare system, obviously, by parting with more than two months of my legitimate earnings, but what will be the fate of a poor soul who is unable to make his two ends meal, leave alone the luxury of seeking curative help from private sector? As if adding fuel to the fire, the recent startling revelation made by World-famous cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Naresh Trehan about the spurious drug scenario is an eye-opener for the health authorities in Kashmir. Authorities should take note of this complex disclosure, as it can be equally nefarious and honest in nature and design—both ways it is killing for the common man. This statement of Trehan speaks volumes about the stakes involved in private health sector, particularly in Kashmir. Undoubtedly, his multi-pronged spurious drug statement was aimed at desperate and gullible healthcare seekers of Kashmir.

Hospital Woes

Editorial, Rising Kashmir

Notwithstanding the claims of successive governments to revamp the healthcare across the state, the hospitals in Srinagar continue to bear the ever growing burden of patients from different parts of the valley. This is bound to affect the efficiency of doctors and subsequently the patient care. The reliance on city hospitals is necessitated by poor infrastructure in the sub-district hospitals and public health centres in rural areas.

Besides, even if the infrastructure is in place, doctors dither to work in far off places thereby forcing people to seek treatment in the city. Take for instance Lal Ded Hospital. One would have expected the hospital to cater mainly to city and adjoining areas, but it continues to receive most of the patients from rural areas. The massive rush witnessed by the hospital tells upon its functioning. Reports of medical negligence, often leading to violent altercation between the hospital staff and attendants, has marred the reputation of the valley’s biggest maternity hospital. Though the maternity facility is available in all district hospitals, Lal Ded Hospital continues to bear their share of patients throughout the year. With the capacity for around 400 patients, one can well imagine the crisis triggered by the excess patient burden. No wonder one can see two patients on a single bed in the hospital. Though a separate building with the capacity for 220 beds is under construction, one cannot expect it to bring any major relief for the hospital, given the ever increasing population and poor state of rural healthcare. Lal Ded hospital bears the brunt even when 30 public health centers (PHCs) are functional in all districts. Islamabad, Baramulla and Kupwara each have four PHCs, Budgam has six, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam have two each while Ganderbal and Bandipora have one each. Other city hospitals, particularly SMHS and SKIMS also suffer from over-burden which ultimately tells upon their efficiency. Official figures indicate the exponential increase in the patient flow at the two premier hospitals. The problems caused by the huge patient influx are further compounded by the lack of requisite infrastructure. Increasing bed strength won’t address the problem. The government should focus on strengthening the healthcare at all levels so that the city hospitals don’t have to bear the excess burden. There is also a dire need for effective monitoring of various health schemes so that common people can avail their benefits adequately. The authorities should ensure close vigil on the hospitals. They should also check the growth of nursing homes conducting regular inspections and initiate action against those not fulfilling the mandatory norms and formalities. The pending projects should also be completed in the scheduled timeframe.

Burglars on Looting Spree in GB Pant Hospital

Mansoor ul Hassan (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Burglars have been on looting spree in Valley’s lone Children Hospital, GB Pant for over a year, that too in nexus with ‘unscrupulous’ elements from within the hospital administration.

“Burglars have managed to steal water geysers, oxygen pipes and electric wiring from the wards. It has been going on for over a year but hospital authorities have turned a blind eye towards it. They had failed to come up with some corrective measure despite the complaints from attendants and some staff members of the hospital,” they added.

The issue came to fore after attendants present at the hospital caught hold of an alleged thief earlier this week when he was trying to steal the pipes in a newly developed ICU ward.

“We were standing near a newly set up Intensive Care Unit ward late Sunday evening when we heard some irritating noises coming from the ward. After reaching the spot, we spotted a man cutting oxygen pipes. We immediately called an employee from STP session and caught hold of him (thief). We handed over him to Police personnel from Ram Munshi Bagh Police Station,” said an attendant whose baby is admitted in the hospital.

Thieves, according to sources, are enjoying the support of some unscrupulous elements from the hospital administration. “How can an adult person manage to carry the copper pipes and other gadgets out of the Hospital?” they questioned. “There had been bulk of complaints about the stealing incidents but administration didn’t act,” they added.

An official wishing anonymity said the thief, who was nabbed was previously working with a contractor as a helper,” he said.

According to him the theft is second occurrence of its kind in the ICU ward. “Earlier the thieves up rooted ceiling fans in Gynecologist ward, water geysers and taps from the general wards some months back,” the official added.

“Apart from hospital property dozens of cars and bikes have been stolen from the compound in past one year,” he added.

“Only five guards and a supervisor from a private company manage the entire security of the hospital. During night only two guards remain on duty and it’s difficult for them look after the entire hospital,” the official said.

When contacted, the Medical Superintendent Dr Kaiser said, “Whenever any such incident of theft has happened we have reported it to the Police. There have been frequent thefts during past couple of months. We have increased the vigil in the hospital that is why we were able to catch a burglar,” he said.

About the role of internal person involved he said: “Let police complete the investigation then only entire matter will become clear,” he said.

Meanwhile, the police have registered an FIR 206/ 2011 under section 308 and started the investigation.

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