Debilitated Health Care Services of J&K

Mahesh Chander Sudan
We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, are experiencing real time impairment of state health care system in facing challenges of COVID-19. Recent spike in the number of cases has hit the health care system not only in terms of inadequate infrastructure but also the availability of medical and paramedical staff to cater for normal emergencies and the COVID patients. Inadequate medical facilities built over the years for people of Jammu and Kashmir in government run hospitals are nowhere comparable with any other neighboring states and UTs. Recent media reported cases of shortage of oxygen and ventilators affected several patients across the regions especially in the premiere hospitals of twin capital cities. It actually indicates lackadaisical attitude of the responsible government officials in anticipating additional requirement of COVID treatment centers. There are reports hinting that few senior doctors remained unavailable to patients in the wards, emergency units, ICUs and CCUs of the government medical college hospital and Associated Hospitals, Jammu leaving entire responsibility on resident doctors and interns. This uncalled for and unprofessional approach of involved senior doctors affected the recovery of patients besides hurting the solemn faith of a patient in the medical profession. These frontline warriors are the saviors expected to treat and lead patients out of ongoing medical disaster.
It is evident that the health care system of the Jammu and Kashmir is facing acute shortage of manpower that grossly affects COVID management. Serious shortage of medical and paramedical staff of gazetted and Non gazetted cadres of GMC and associated hospitals as recently published in the media shows callous and careless handling of the recruitment process for quite some time. It has administratively been neglected to reach such a low manning level against sanctioned posts that is insufficient to carry out routine patients’ management and the ongoing pandemic has further reduced the availability of medical and para medical staff. Additional requirement of treating COVID patients by the existing manpower added fuel to fire and the situation today has gone beyond control, poor patients rushing to only government run institute worth its name from remotest country side suffer beyond explanation due to shortage of beds, doctors, nurses and the medicines. He suffers victimization of administrative failure with least accountability of any official in the chain of command. Growth of medical infrastructure both structural and of special medical equipment equally remained neglected even during the period of national lock down that was meant to strengthen health care system across India. Health department officials of government of Jammu and Kashmir failed to anticipate the present situation and urgency to institute remedial measures by hiring required manpower, create separate COVID treatment centers without disturbing already overcrowded medical facilities like GMC & AH and Super Specialty Hospital. It is also a well-known fact that Jammu province has no major private hospital to share the load. Recent manmade disaster of oxygen shortage and availability of only 44 functional ventilators in GMCH created panic amongst patients and resulted in avoidable loss of lives. We are pained to accept that situation has not improved even today, there is dire need of doctors, ventilators, beds and associated equipment. Our system has failed to gear up district, sub district and tehsil level hospitals to become treatment centers rather than mere referral authorities.
Although few changes have been effected in terms of appointing nodal officers to mitigate the sufferings of the patients yet it is only firefighting exercise. We the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been going through a political experiment instituted by the union government of India since 2014 with least presence of governance whether during PDP+BJP set up or thereafter under Governor and President Rule till 31 Oct 2019 when the erstwhile state has been divided into two Union Territories for better administration to overcome security issues. It is really a sordid affair where around 1.3 crore honorable citizens of India have been left to face unparalleled medical negligence with zero accountability of government officials responsible for health care services especially during pandemic. At the same time, it is felt that system has not reached such critical reverses in a day and the main stream political parties like Congress, National Conference, PDP and BJP who have ruled this state must own their share and stand accountable for loss of precious lives reported during recent crisis at State Medical College Hospital, Jammu. It is really condemnable to note that some senior politicians (office Bearers) of National Conference and Congress Party from Jammu Province have shed crocodile tears while sharing grief of the bereaved families. We need empathy and not sympathy.
As it stands that we are being ruled under temporary constitutional alternate and have no democratic representation in the present context, it is our humble plea to the Lieutenant Governor of JK to activate health infrastructure of the Union Territory in its right earnest to avoid any such recurrence of crisis in the interest of poor people who have no other option like blessed few who can afford treatment at their cost or can prevail upon the administration to get treated at best hospitals. In order to improve the existing facilities especially at GMCH and Associated Hospitals, treatment of all government employees must be restricted to Government run hospitals unlike today where elite class manages to reach private institutes. Political leaders must set an example for others to emulate. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
The author is Wg Cdr (Retd)