Fixing Valley’s broken health care


One does not need to understand rocket science to know that the health sector in Kashmir is in a shambles. Not only is it crying for better infrastructure, like more hospitals, latest machinery, diagnostic tools, more manpower etc, but the sector also suffers because of sale of sub-standard drugs, non hygienic condition of most hospitals and difficult working conditions for medical professionals like doctors, nurses and other paramedic staff.  The central Govt in its recent budget announced the establishment of an AIIMS in the State, which is supposed to come up in the valley. This is a welcome development and should come as a relief to not only patients across the State but doctors as well. But this will not help the tertiary healthcare in the valley. District hospitals, sub district hospitals and dispensaries across the valley suffer from an acute shortage of staff and infrastructure, thus forcing more patients from various districts and rural areas to visit the bigger hospitals in Srinagar city. This puts these hospitals and their resources under severe stress and strain. Were it not for the lack of various facilities at the district headquarters, most of these patients wouldn’t have to visit these hospitals. This would not only make the life of these patients better and easy and save them money, but also let these bigger hospitals cater to the patients in a more professional and better way. Improving the facilities and infrastructure at the district hospitals and dispensaries would automatically improve medical facilities across the valley including the bigger hospital in the capital city of Srinagar. All hospitals in the valley, be they the bigger hospitals or the district level hospitals, suffer from an acute shortage of latest machineries and diagnostic tools. This has given rise to a host of private players who provide these services at exorbitant prices. Many poor patients can’t afford these diagnostic tests and hence they are not able to access these basic health facilities.

The doctors and other medical staff work under extremely stressful schedules. Most doctors on OPD duty have to see far more patients than is practically possible with the result they are not able to provide best of their services to these patients. Also a lack of proper guidelines with regard to private practice of doctors is not making things better.

The lack of proper infrastructure in the hospitals can only be addressed by the Government. But there are other areas where medical fraternity can try to set things right on their own. The cleanliness of hospitals is one such area where the hospital administration can bring about dramatic changes by just being proactive and getting things done. An acute stench greets  patients or any other visitor whenever  they visits most hospitals in the valley. A clean hospital is a pre requisite for a better healthcare. The whip also needs to be cracked on those medical practitioners who are found recommending and selling sub standard drugs. Kashmir valley faces an acute problem in this regard given that a lot of sub standard drugs are being sold throughout the valley. This practice involves not only pharmaceutical distributors and chemists but involves many doctors as well, who recommend such drugs for an incentive, financial or otherwise.

The crumbling health sector can be put back on track only if the Government shows a strong will to do its bit and the medical fraternity and the public at large also chip in with their efforts and inputs.

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