Foreign-Returned Kashmiri Medical Force Awaiting Frontline Call

Representational Photo by Kashmir Observer

Back home after handling some critical and challenging health emergencies in different parts of the world, many medical specialists from the valley are ready to serve in the second viral wave forcing government to mobilise men and machinery for the combat.

By Sameer Dar

AFTER handling scores of medical emergency situations, especially during the Gulf War, in the Middle East, Dr. Syed Riyaz Ahmed finally came home in Kashmir amid the ongoing health crisis.

His arrival in the viral spring of 2021 coincided with the government’s emergency recruitment of rookies and retired healthcare workers for the critical combat.

Growing the tribe of Covid warriors was one of the recognizable official responses against the health crisis.

This conscription for frontlines alerted trauma-care specialist Dr. Riyaz in his Srinagar home where he had arrived for the post-retirement sabbatical.

As a Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission qualified doctor (Regd. 2373), with a job stint in the region’s health department, he applied for the community welfare cause.

But the medic, who recently retired from the Ministry of Health Services in UAE, was not considered for the crisis-management role by the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir.

The denial prompted him to send a dispatch, with Grievance No 999002081796 generated from LG Portal, to Raj Bhavan.

“I don’t have any grievance but a suggestion,” Dr. Riyaz wrote in his letter to Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha.

“In response to a call by the government seeking services of retired healthcare professionals interested in joining the efforts of the government to assist during this crisis time, I applied with the Director Health Services Kashmir Div. with the same intention,” wrote the dialectologist, with MBBS from GMC, Srinagar and MSc Diabetes Medicine from the UK.

“But my services were not accepted and the reason given was that I have not retired from state health services. Being academically, professionally, physically, mentally and emotionally quite capable I wondered about the criteria of accepting services of a retired health care professional, albeit country of retirement.”

Dr. Riyaz isn’t alone volunteering for the frontline duty during the current health emergency. His colleagues who served in different parts of the world are equally enthusiastic about the service.

As one of the earliest trained medics at SKIMS Soura, Dr. Fayaz Khan from Bagaat Srinagar is equally looking forward to the Covid duty.

Apart from the community concern, his cause is fuelled by the loss of his family friend.

“In this pandemic, I lost someone very close to me,” the affable medic says.

“The poor man had struggled a lot in his life to educate his children and when he was supposed to get some relief, he became a victim of this deadly disease. He was the same guy who had shot an emotional appeal for his life on social media. If only given a chance to head a three-bedded centre, I would’ve saved the life of the poor soul.”

Much of this confidence comes from the old schooling that Dr. Fayaz’s tribe received from the veterans of the field.

“Since most of us are groomed by the likes of Dr AA Guru and other veterans, we’re trained in tough medical procedures and can tackle any big health emergency,” the retired surgeon told Kashmir Observer.

“But while my contemporaries understand that we’re up against the invisible enemy, we can play generals for our young soldiers holding the fort right now. As someone who handled the healthcare institutions for difficult-to-handle Saudis, my tribe has an experience to deal with any health crisis.”

But at the age group these doctors want to enroll themselves for the warlike situation demands a will of sorts.

“There’s no question to join the pandemic duty without signing a will,” Dr Fayaz says. “We understand that we may return in body bags, but we are up for it.”

Mostly cooling their heels for the emergency duty right now, these medical volunteers with overseas experience exist in dozens in Kashmir valley. They say their professional insights can help restore some confidence in the region grappling with the Covid wave.

“Being a senior physician who has worked with multi-nationalities abroad, I can use my experience to deal with this Covid, which is a multi-organ affecting disease,” says Dr. Mufti Azad from Srinagar.

Without boasting of miracles, the curt-sounding medic says that if given a chance his tribe will be acting as per the book.

“But yes, at a time when young and inexperienced people are being tasked to handle this extraordinary situation, the experience of some of us can come in handy,” he says.

Raising the same points in his letter to LG Sinha, Dr Riyaz wrote that many of these healthcare professionals are specialists in different fields of Medicine with tremendous experience at their back.

“I am sure it would be a prudent decision to seek their participation in a noble cause,” the doctor wrote in his letter.

“I am sure reconsideration of recruitment criteria will definitely widen its scope and expedite the efforts of Govt for more effective and efficient preparedness to tackle the current and forthcoming crisis.”

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