Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal
I reached Jammu on 20th April morning. A dear friend received me at the airport and told his driver to leave the vehicle, a fully automatic SUV, at my disposal.
I said I was too tired to go out anywhere and will not use the car that day. The driver was, therefore, directed to bring the car to me at 8 am the next morning.
That evening, I retired early to bed. Eating his dinner at his place, my friend had a premonition. He, somehow, felt that the car should be delivered to me in the night itself.
He called the driver and told him to leave the car with me. The driver came and delivered the car to us. Time was around 10:30 pm.
Who would ever dream the car was sent to us with a divine intervention ! Maybe, my friend had some kind of foreboding. Or he had a fascinating ” ilham”. Who will tell us ?
But, one thing is certain. Gods knew that the car would be required to save the life of a nano agenarian lady that night ! The same Gods save Jammuites in an emergency of health.
Around 4:30 in the morning, my wife woke me up. She said her mother was feeling uneasy. I realised her mother was suffering from laboured breathing.
That is when the car came to our rescue and I immediately rushed her to the government hospital, Gandhi Nagar.
The hospital premises looked like a forlorn and haunted place with no soul in sight. No chowkidar or security man was seen. It suffered the silence of a graveyard.
I parked the car in front of the Emergency door. I yelled : koi hai ? I used the car horn too. Still, nobody was alerted.
I ventured into the corridor and noticed five to six persons sitting, in a big room with a hospital bed and the allied paraphernalia.
I told them I had brought an old lady for treatment.. They did not move an inch. I said I needed help to pick her up safely from the car. They looked at each other. I raised my voice : one of you come with me to fetch the patient safely.
Finally, one Sikh gentleman, a doctor I presume, came with me. There were at least six men and women. You could not decipher who is a doctor and who is a helper.
They injected a few medicines. I read the monitor showing bp at 211/106 and oxygen saturation was in the eighties, at 84, with the pulse racing at 122.
After about half-an-hour of a few injections, the team decided to refer her to the medical college hospital.
The patient was kept in the hospital ambulance with a cylinder of oxygen and one “doctor” who neither looked nor behaved like a doctor. He seemed to be a helper.
Clearly, the Gandhi Nagar hospital is not equipped to handle an emergency like a myocardial infarction ( heart attack ), especially during the night.
Doctors touch the patient with a long stick lest their hands be dirtied. It takes uncertain time to feel the pulse of the patient to put a cannula, which is a life saving procedure to inject intravenous medicines.
We reached the medical college hospital in the ambulance provided by the hospital. The driver parked the ambulance at the medical college hospital Emergency.
You may have seen the medicos rushing to receive the patient in the movies and the crime thrillers as the ambulance carrying the patient reaches the Emergency. Nothing like that happened.
The person who accompanied the patient in the ambulance, and who is supposed to be a doctor, vanished from the scene telling his duty is over! He vanished into thin air without offering any help or even guidance as to going about managing the sick further.
The driver of the ambulance did not move out of his cockpit.
This was my first experience in a government hospital in my entire life. I never needed hospitalisation before I joined the Indian Air Force. Afterwards, being a military man, I am used to the military hospitals or hospitals like Escorts, New Delhi and Kokilaben in Mumbai.
Here, in Jammu medical college hospital, a patient is lying in the ambulance at the ‘Emergency’ of the medical college hospital. She is in dire need of urgent treatment, but nobody is in sight to help.
The hospital staff, be it doctors or the paramedics, were nowhere to be seen that early morning. Nobody had any interest in attending the patient brought to them in their own ambulance.
The driver of the ambulance never came out of the van. He kept sitting at the wheel. The patient was lying in the ambulance without a doctor. Nobody came from the staff of the hospital to inquire or help. Only Gods were at work to keep the patient alive.
I requested the ambulance driver to at least tell me what to do and how to proceed, fast! Finally, he opened his mouth. The precious 15 minutes had already been lost.
Even in the emergency ward number 1, there seemed to be no evidence of any emergency or emergent procedures. No specialist examined the patient for the next several hours. It seemed everyone was waiting for things to settle down naturally : either the patient will settle, or else, she will pass away. I learnt that in two days, sixteen patients had died in the emergency ward itself.
With the intervention of a former head of a department, she was admitted to an emergency ICU by the evening. Nobody had seen the ECG untill 8 pm. Even at 8 pm, it was not a cardiologist ! Attending doctors never requested for a cardiologist to come and see the patient the whole day.
I was worried about the safety and survival of my patient. I spoke to a specialist I know from the Super Speciality Hospital. I asked if it was safe to keep the patient there.
The good doctor intervened, and guided and we decided to stay put. By this time, I had got references to the top notch healers and administrators in the system, and things had started moving, though at an indifferent pace.
I notice that all the tasks were undertaken by medical students, interns, and some PG students. Rarely we saw registrars or specialists or consultants visiting the patient.
Therefore, the entire show is run by interns or the graduate doctors. If you go to the emergency, you will find the medical room no. 2 manned by a doctor or two, sometimes even more, who have barely graduated as doctors. No specialist was in sight, ever.
They prescribe without seeing the patient. There is so much clamour around them. They talk to one and write a prescription for the other ! The scenario looks like a fish market. In the adjoining room , I noticed a CMO, Chief Medical Officer, I guess, sitting comparatively idle ; many a time, peacefully immersed in the smartphone.
Nobody knows what is happening around, and still many things are happening ! Scores of sufferers come to the emergency room every hour. Each patient is accompanied by at least 3 to 4 well wishers to help. One goes to fetch the trolley, another rushes to search the doctors. The third one stays out with the crying patient, and so on.
So where is the paramedics staff whose duty it is to look after the patient on arrival ? I saw no one near the “May I Help” cabin. I peeped in and found a person sleeping. I shouted at him to wake up and help.
Friends, the present emergency looks like a place where an earthquake has just taken place. Those trying to help are not the Red Cross volunteers. These are the friends and relatives of the patient. What if a patient arrives with no attendants ? Only Gods, and not the hospital staff, will be able to save him.
There are a good number of capable doctors in the system working hard to cure the suffering, but the juniors fail to bring the cases to their attention. Juniors are overawed by the milling crowds visiting as patients and attendants.
Two young girls paid repeated visits to the ward. They enquired if our patient has a gold card issued by the government of Jammu and Kashmir. We replied affirmative. They told us to register with the Ayushman cell in the hospital. The medicines, then, shall be provided free of charge, they informed. I was too tired to run around more.
We registered after three days. A few medicines were supplied for which we paid nothing. A few tests were done free of charge.
I got an SMS that a certain financial package has been released under the scheme out of our account of five lakh rupees provided by the government.
This is what I understand about this scheme. Each Gold Card holder of J & K is entitled for free treatment up to a maximum sum of five lakh rupees every year, in the enrolled hospitals. If this money is utilised in a year, the limit shall be again made available in the next year.
But, there is a catch. We do not know what medicines are issued against our Gold Card. We do not know how much amount has been debited from our account. We have no say in verifying the medicines prescribed and supplied.
On discharge from the hospital, a box of medicines was handed over to us. These are of no use to us. These are not included in the prescription the doctors wrote for the patient at the time of the discharge. I went back to the hospital to return these medicines.
What do we do with these medicines ? If these were issued and not used for our patient, why could they not be returned ? I may not be paying directly for these medicines, but the government is paying on my behalf. Why this callous attitude and criminal loss to the public exchequer ?
The entire health care system is extremely overloaded. Whatever system is in place, needs to be overhauled on topmost priority. In my opinion, a committee of medical administrators from the army hospitals is the best bet for Jammu medical college hospital. And it is very urgent.
Jammuites fought for a holiday on the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh. They got it. This holiday will definitely not save your life if you have an emergent health condition. Only a well equipped and well manned hospital and health care system can save you and your loved ones.
Please wake up to the reality. Unite and ask for a dependable health care system for Jammu. This is the need of the hour. If need be, please unite the way you united for the Hari Singh holiday or the Amarnath Yatra issues.
Chaos, turmoil, cries, tears and silent sobbing fill the scenario of the Energency at the Jammu Medical College Hospital. The ICU and the wards are no better. Emergency ICU beds are with no side bars. The patient can easily slide out of the bed and fall on the floor.
Except the Nescafe booth, cafetarias are most unwelcoming. Even doctors have no proper resting or eating place. They order their samosa through the ward boys and eat in the wards.
Broken tiles, leaking taps, dirty elevators, unclean washrooms with ill-maintained gadgets, unkept trolleys ( read stretchers ) are certainly not smart enough for a ” smart city ” like Jammu.
A hospital is known by the efficiency, dedication and expertise of the Emergency Room doctors and staff. They are the real saviours and angels who take care of patients in life threatening situations. For safety and survival of Jammuites, we must upgrade them in all dimensions.
Dear fellow citizens, Mrs Raksha Sharma, wife of Sahitya Akademi Award winner, poet Yash Sharma, has finally survived a minor heart attack. But, given the present system of health care, others may not.