Healthcare is far too important to be treated in such a manner. On one hand, the policymakers need to have the will and capacity to get to the root of the problem and on the other hand, medical professionals also need to shun victimhood and self-regulate.
Seventy years have gone by when India became free from the colonial rule. But developmental activity needed to take entire mass of population into consideration. How could we see the dawn of prosperity unless we had begun our long march towards the destination of progress from the villages and hamlets where India actually lives. Of various services, education and health care are perhaps the two most important areas and these had to be prioritized at any rate if we really wanted India to enter a new era of her social and political life.
Our policy planners are fully aware that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is mostly a hilly and kandi state with very weak economy. This area is not attractive so that teachers and medical professionals would be willing to be posted there. Hence they try to avoid to be posted to far flung areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Padar etc. The condition of hospitals, dispensaries, medical care units in these areas is dismal. Health care area in these mountainous districts is so dismal that even the elected representatives of these areas have been expressing their helplessness in persuading authorities to provide the hospitals with minimum facilities and medical staff. There is no Radiologist in Doda District Hospital and patients have to be carried all the way to Udhampur or Jammu for radiology and ultrasound.
Complaints are regularly made by the people, legislators and NGOs but the Government has closed its ears and does not listen. Some time back a Trauma Hospital was opened in Khelani just because the Batote-Bhaderwah and Batote-Doda/ Kishtwar road is mostly accident prone. In case of road accidents, the affected patients need quick trauma treatment if the lives have to be saved. However, what is the utility of having a Trauma Hospital when there are no doctors to attend the patients. This is the unspeakable condition of the rural hospitals and the treatment that the Health Department authorities are meting out to them. Way back on November 15, 2013, the former Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad laid the foundation stone for construction of 100-beded Sub-District Hospital at Gandoh. Five years have passed and the building is not complete. How many more years will it take to become functional is anybodys guess. The people will continue to suffer without seeing a ray of hope anywhere. The rural people in the State are destined to live poor and deprived life. Government should take steps on war-footing to improve the plights of people living in these far-flung areas.
The concentration of hospitals is also low in most of the districts due to which people are not able to avail health services on time or not at all. For instance in Tangmarg area there are around 50 villages where there is not a single primary health care facility. In peripheral areas and frontier districts it is the same story.
Health care infrastructure has some serious holes. District Hospitals lack facilities and machinery while as sub district hospitals do not have specialist doctors. There are no psychiatrists, clinical psychologists or even pediatricians and gynecologists in sub district and district hospitals. This causes patients to be shifted to few tertiary care hospitals. Only one district hospital has an ICU. Due to the absence of ICUs in district hospitals and also the ICU ambulances with associated staff, patients often are at high risk while they are being transferred.
At the policy level, the state does not have a clear health care policy, although the government and some bodies have expressed their opinion to have one.
Private practice of medicos has also had a dire effect on the public health in the state. In the premier institute medicos are paid Non Practicing Allowance. But the same is not provided to doctors of other hospitals. Doctors who do not receive NPAs have put forward their demands and have been seen as spending lesser time in the hospitals. Lack of accountability has put a question mark on the doctors services in different hospitals.
Then there is the problem of substandard medicines and drugs that are being pushed in the states markets. The government has a policy on the drug control and mechanism as well, but despite that it has not been able to get the state out of the spurious drugs menace.
The need of the hour is to rekindle the infrastructure, governance, maintenance, mechanism and functioning of public hospitals. Public hospitals, because of the sheer apathy of the governments at state and central level, have become so pathetic that one prefers disease over those. The soiled floors, unhygienic and filthy washrooms, paucity of staff, lack of beds, absence of canteens, intermittent supply of electricity and no digitisation are some of the very basic problems which are plaguing public healthcare. This compels people to opt for private hospitals which in turn charge exorbitantly, putting a hefty burden on the pockets of poor and middle class citizens. Any rational person would always be of the opinion that investment in health and education is imperative for economic development of a nation-state. Quality healthcare is the first thing in which we need to invest in order to harness the demographic dividend. It requires massive introspection and brainstorming by the government, health department and bureaucrats. Budget allocations should be increased and there should be a vehement co-ordination at different levels to ensure that each penny spent in the health sector leads to a better livelihood for the people.
SOLUTION: Making better use of visiting faculty, a concept which has been well embraced by management institutes across the country. The permanent staff of a medical college can look after administration and maintain a panel of visiting teachers from the vast pool of practising doctors in various fields. Lectures can be uploaded to the college website.
Author is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Degree college Handwara. He can be reached at: <[email protected]>