JAMMU, Apr 1: In what could be termed as height of negligence and casual approach of the concerned authorities, all the four telemedicine nodes established in various Government Hospitals across Jammu division including Medical College Jammu are lying defunct for last about 10 years.
The Telemedicine Programme of ISRO is an innovative process of synergizing benefits of Satellite communication technology and information technology with Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences to deliver the health care services to the remote, distant and underserved regions of the country.
The programme was started in 2001 and under this project remote district hospitals/health centres and mobile units were connected to major specialty hospitals in cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar through INSAT satellites for providing expert consultation.
According to the sources, under this programme, ISRO established about 12 telemedicine nodes in various health institutions of the State between 2002 and 2005. Out of the 12 nodes, four were established in Jammu province and eight others in Jammu province.
In Jammu province, these nodes were established in Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu, District Hospital (DH) Kathua, DH Poonch and DH Doda while in Kashmir province, one each was established in SKIMS Soura, GMC Srinagar, DH Kupwara, DH Leh, DH Kargil, DH Zanskar, DH Tanghdar and SDH Uri. These hospitals were connected with each other and the reputed hospitals of the country like AIIMS New Delhi, PGI Chandigarh, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, CRMC Chennai, etc.
All established telemedicine nodes consisted of a VSAT system, videoconferencing equipment and telemedicine software along with diagnostic instruments such as the ECG machine and an X-ray scanner. While Department of Space/ISRO provided Telemedicine systems software, hardware and communication equipment as well as satellite bandwidth, State Government and Speciality hospitals on their part allocated funds for infrastructure, manpower and facility support.
“Though most of these facilities established in Kashmir are still functional except a few but all the four nodes established in Jammu hospitals are lying defunct and that too for last over 8-10 years,” sources said. They revealed that the facility at GMC Jammu was established in 2002 and since 2010 this facility is lying defunct, and even its instruments are not traceable.
Similarly, the telemedicine node at DH Poonch is lying defunct since September 2009 after it was shifted in new building of the hospital while the facility at DH Doda is un-utilized since 2005, only one year after its establishment. Likewise, the telemedicine node at DH Kathua is lying defunct since 2014 due to some technical issues.
What is more shocking is that neither Directorate of Health Services, Jammu nor the administration of the concerned hospitals, where these facilities were established, made any effort to revive these telemedicine nodes over these years irrespective of the fact that many health institutions in remote areas of Jammu province lack better health facilities and specialist doctors.
When contacted, Principal Secretary, Health and Medical Education Department, Dr Pawan Kotwal, said he is not aware of the establishment of such telemedicine nodes in J&K. He said if such nodes were established in J&K and they are not functional at present, he will make every effort to revive the same in the interest of patient care.