A pregnant woman is referred from a Kupwara hospital to Srinagar for the delivery of her baby. At Lal Ded, the doctors refuse to admit her. With nowhere to go, the woman delivers the baby on the road. The baby dies. The incident which happened on Saturday has shocked the Valley. The people have demanded action against the erring doctor at Lal Ded who was later placed under suspension pending enquiry. The outrage also spilled over to the social media with a section of people putting the incident down to the callousness of the doctors. But while this certainly is the case in this particular instance, the fundamental problem about the deteriorating healthcare in the Valley is structural in nature.
As our in-depth story on Sunday explains it, the healthcare faces a serious shortage of infrastructure and the doctors. Nearly 97 percent of the healthcare needs are met by public health institutions in J&K as against the rest of India where the private sector meets 28 percent of such needs. Similarly, compared to the doctor-patient ratio of 1:2000 in India, J&K has one allopathic doctor for 3,866 people. Overall, the state is short of 69 sub-district hospitals and 1903 nurses. This has made it exceedingly difficult for the doctors at the government hospitals to handle the ever-growing rush of the patients.
True, the health sector in Kashmir is expanding like never before, but almost all of it is in private sector centered in urban areas. A number of private hospitals have come up in Srinagar and also in major towns of the Valley. On the other hand, the government sector by and large remains stagnant. There has been hardly any expansion in the infrastructure over the past two decades while the patient rush has exponentially grown in the period. This is telling upon the quality of patient care in the Valley. In fact, the hospitals at the district level are more or less defunct, with most of their patients being referred to major Srinagar hospitals in Srinagar like SMHS, SKIMS and Lal Ded. This has strained the limited resources of these hospitals even while the doctors have tried to give their best.
Everyday hundreds of patients turn up with ailments ranging from the minor cold to critical illnesses. This calls for a major push for the upgradation and expansion of the health infrastructure in the government sector. A suggestion can be made about expanding the existing facilities in the city which are anyway the eventual go-to health-care destinations in the Valley. We need expansion of Lal-Ded, SMHS and SKIMS. In case of SKIMS, the government already has a medical college at Bemina which can be gainfully segregated from its parent institution at Soura and allowed to develop independently as an important healthcare institution. Besides, being easily approachable for the people from North Kashmir, spanning several districts, the hospital will go a long way to ease pressure on SMHS and SKIMS.
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