Saving lives on highway

Ghulam Muhammad Kundroo, a resident of Harwan Srinagar was  on his way home in Valley from Jammu   when he suffered a heart attack near Kud. Kundroo’s wife who was accompanying him rushed him to nearby Sher-e-Kashmir Memorial Hospital, Batote, along with some co-passengers. Doctors attending on him declared his condition unstable and advised he be rushed to SKIMS, Srinagar.  The hospital had no specialised facilities to take care of such emergency cases. All that doctors could do was to offer him was an aspirin.  What is more, the hospital didn’t even have the ambulance in a good enough condition to ferry the critical patient to Srinagar, some two hundred kilometres away. 

It was then that the passengers rang up Kashmir Observer. We instantly got in touch with  the Director Health Services Kashmir Saleem-ur-Rahman  and Deputy Commissioner Ramban. But by the time officials reached the passengers accompanying the patient, they had already started for Srinagar on their own. But traffic snarls along the way hampered their onward journey. However, Director Health Services, Jammu Dr Gurjeet Singh Soodan, who was contacted by his Kashmir counterpart acted promptly and alerted health officials at Ramban who made an ambulance ready by the time patient reached there.  It had taken the ambulance  four long hours to reach Ramban as a result of the long traffic jams along the route.  Thereafter Kundroo was rushed to SKIMS where he is recovering now.

It took a team effort to save Kundroo’s life. Our staff, Directors of Health Services, Kashmir and Jammu,  Ramban hospital and the co-passengers worked in concert. The passengers had the serendipity to call Kashmir Observer and we ensured the help reaches the patient.  But as all will agree, this is not the solution. The solution is the availability along the highway of the adequate medical facilities for the emergency cases like Kundroo. And that too when highway is more than 300 kilometres long and thousands of people travel on it everyday.  But set aside the existence of such facilities, there is not even the sufficient consciousness of the need for them along the highways. 

What is more, the highway which is a frequent witness to mishaps, even lacks the all-important trauma care centres.  Same is the case along other highways. In 2016 alone, J&K witnessed 5836 road accidents which claimed 917 lives while 8142 people suffered disability.  The figures are disproportionately larger than the deaths in militancy related incidents. Compared to this,  150 militants and 81 security personnel lost their lives in violence in  the year.  But while the militancy gets all the media spotlight and the government attention and a massive security budget is set aside to tackle it, next to nothing is done to ensure adequate medical infrastructure to reduce the number of lives lost every year due to road mishaps.  In 2012, under the scheme ‘Capacity Building for Developing Trauma Care Facilities in Government Hospitals on National Highways’, 140 trauma care facilities were announced to be set up all over India equipped with 140 Advanced Life Support fitted ambulances. Five such centres were announced for J&K at crucial spots along highway such as Ramban, Banihal, Pattan etc. But as Kundroo’s case will prove, little has changed on the ground. May be, this is because  equipping highways with adequate medical facilities is a dull, prosaic business, not a site of dramatic forays as the fight against militancy is.

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