Only courts make things move here

After government failure to manage health care system in the state, Jammu and Kashmir High Court intervened in public interest some years ago and sought report about private practice of the doctors working in the state’s premier healthcare facility, S K Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar; mushroom growth of unregistered and unlicensed private hospitals, nursing homes, druggists and chemists; and the sale of spurious drugs. 

Acting on a complaint a division bench had asked the then principal secretary, Health and Medical Education Department , and the drug controller, to close all the unregistered private hospitals and nursing homes within a week after serving a notice on them. The court also directed the authorities to furnish details of doctors working in government hospitals, primary health centers and dispensaries. They have been asked to come up with details of the registered private hospitals, nursing homes, clinical establishments along with the nature of various facilities and medical equipment available with them. Taking a serious note of violation of the ban on private practice, absence of doctors in government hospital and mushroom growth of private hospitals and nursing homes, the high court directed the commissioner vigilance to “organize and conduct periodical raids to ensure no doctor working in S K Institute of Medical Sciences violated the ban order.” On the sale of spurious drugs and unregistered druggist and chemist shops, the high court directed the controller of drugs to furnish the list of the licensed / registered druggists and chemists, giving him three weeks to undertake a survey to locate the unregistered and unlicensed drug shops. 

It goes without saying that over the decades the healthcare system in the state has been thoroughly scandalized with most medical practitioners sparing no effort to suck every drop of the patients’ blood. Driven by an insatiable urge for wealth, the apron clad gentry have converted disease into a money spinner and, in the process, robbed an otherwise noble profession of its hallowed essence. Over the years, a criminal nexus has developed among various pharmaceutical companies, druggists and chemists and the medical practitioners. Several drug manufacturers have been organizing high-profile functions, including seminars and symposia, with a view to enlisting “co-operation” of the medical fraternity to market their products. In most cases, they foot the bills of the participating doctors’ air travel, five-star stay, perks and even offer them monetary inducements. No wonder that many a doctor come back to their hospitals as virtual sales promoters of such generous sponsors of their high-flying visits. Apart from these, medical representatives make a beeline outside the doctors’ chambers and clinics to make them prescribe their medicines, certainly against consideration. It is this unholy triangular tie-up among the pharmaceutical companies, the druggists and chemists and the medical practitioners that has resulted in flooding of markets with spurious drugs which have been taking a heavy toll on patients suffering from various ailments. Over the years, drug induced ailments have assumed a menacing proportion, in some cases even leading to mental disorders. The astronomical increase in the number of druggists and chemists, particularly in the valley, can be traced to the high-profit business. 

No less scandalous is the rampant truancy of government doctors from their institutions, particularly in the rural areas. On its part, the government has been callously indifferent to the frequent media reports about various patients dying due to absence of doctors. In most cases, the doctors spend more of their time at their private clinics than in hospitals. Surprisingly, the state government as always has chosen to look the other way for no good reason. 

Since several years have passed since High Court intervention, authorities at the helm remain unmoved. There is need for follow up measures by the honorable court as the rot that has seeped into the healthcare sector can not be removed if left to politicians and bureaucrats  as they seem to have developed a vested interest in the status quo. 

The successive state governments have shown total disregard to public outcries so far and it has been observed that it acts only on the court orders. There is an urgent need to break the nexus that has commercialized the noble medical profession only to fleece the vast multitude of patients. 

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