Shortage of doctors

Jammu and Kashmir was big state and is now the largest UT, with difficult terrain, wide climatic differences, and far less infrastructure as compared to some neighbouring states. The most serious area of concern is the healthcare system in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Despite numerous medical colleges, the health care in both UTs is not so healthy. Even for minor surgeries, people rush to the neighbouring States of Punjab or Delhi for specialised treatment. This is possible only for those who can afford it, and for the rest, Government hospitals are the only hope. A peek into the infrastructure available and services being offered leaves much to be desired. Buildings have been built, but doctors are missing. What can be more tragic than the fact that almost 50 percent of the posts in rural Jammu and Kashmir are vacant? The situation is worse in accident-prone hilly areas, where trauma centres have been built but no doctors are available, and district hospitals are understaffed, with the result that all cases are referred to GMCs in Jammu or Srinagar. The situation becomes more complicated in cases of accidents, as time is crucial for victims to survive, but hospitals have no doctors to attend, resulting in high casualty figures. Mere buildings can never be effective hospitals. The High Court has rightly asked for the list of doctors attached and the number of posts referred for recruitment. It is a hard fact that despite tall claims of various digital initiatives in governance, administration, despite efforts, has not been able to streamline the Health and Medical Education Department. There is no transfer policy, with the result that all influential doctors are posted in and around their home cities. The malice is so widely spread that there are scores of doctors who haven’t served out of Jammu or Srinagar in their entire career; surprising as it may sound, it is a fact. In this digital age, the fact that the Health and Medical Education Departments is not able to parse the service record data of doctors seems strange. The least concern for the poor as 50 percent of primary health centres, new primary health centres, and community health centres are without doctors. The rural population has to run from pillar to post for even basic treatment. It is not just a case of one district; all districts have only half of the sanctioned number of medical officers. The net result is overstretched and overburdened GMCs in Jammu and Srinagar, more so the GMC in Jammu during the winter as it serves the winter migrant patients also from Kashmir and Ladakh. The present situation is more severe in infantile GMCs, which neither has experienced staff nor full complements of doctors. Implicitly, all of this is beyond imagination. A gander at the whole process leaves one shocked at the casual attitude adopted by higher authorities. Even emergencies are running on skeleton ad hoc staff. On night duty, the same MO has to look after the emergency ward as well as the upfront emergencies. As a result, the situation is chaotic, with attendants shouting at the top of their lungs to get attention and ward patients being cared for by nurses. When all the employees are on the Employees Management Portal, why are Departments and Administration not able to break this nexus and implement a robust and consistent policy for transfers? Why is the time-bound recruitment process not being followed? Health services fall under emergency services; critical patients don’t have time to seek medical attention in the farthest of places. This whole process is a riddle that the LG Administration has to solve at the earliest. These are policy decisions that should be taken well in advance.