Super Specialty Hospital on ‘Ventilator’

Rajan Gandhi
Jammu’s Super Specialty Hospital(SSH), supposed to be a game changer in Medicare facilities for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, more specifically for Jammu Division so much so that at one time it was projected as an alternative to PGIMER, Chandigarh and AIIMS, New Delhi, but it failed to live up to the hype it created initially. With an estimated initial budget of over one hundred thirty crores but instead of spending whole money on the SSH project a portion of it was diverted to Pediatrics Hospital building in the SMGS Hospital complex on Shalamar Road. SSH has been functional since 2013 initially with eight departments but right now only six specialties namely Cardio, CTVS, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Urology, Nephrology are operational from SSH.
Despite tall claims by government from time to time right from its inception, it is in news for all the wrong reasons, be its name Super Specialty Block instead of Super Specialty Hospital, inadequate space to the extent that there is no Emergency Wing in SSH which means every patient has to first approach GMC emergency from where patients are redirected to SSH but in the process critical time is lost specifically for cardiac and neurosurgery patients and a Super Specialty of Cardio and Neuro without Emergency defies all logics and till day no corrective action has been taken. Things are further complicated by the fact that the patients have to travel more than a kilometer through PVR (KC) Cine Complex road and if it is movie show time than it’s a nightmare for heart or critical accident patient to be stuck in traffic jams. Same traffic problem is being faced by on call doctors from GMC. Further some tests are to be conducted at GMC, like TMT/Holter on second floor without a lift as such one can imagine the plight of heart patient and niggling issues like this have not been able to justify SSH’s very existence in first place due to official apathy and government’s indifferent attitude.
This Super Specialty has been treated as if it’s a luxury and not a necessity by respective regimes and despite right now under Governor’s rule things have not improved much. This hospital is marred by numerous operational deficiencies in basic building design like inadequate parking space though now multi-storey parking facility has been raised outside hospital complex but it is still non operational due to payment issues of contractor. A proposal is there to connect GMC with top floor of new SSH parking but when will it materialize practically no one can guess. There is only one medicine shop catering to whole hospital and with no competition patients have to buy medicines without proper discount. This shop holds numerous such shops and has a contract of crores with Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Ltd and part of this money is supposed to be used for sanitation and security related services but no such fund has been made available to SSH till now.
But two major issues affecting the working of SSH are acute shortage of senior faculty/resident doctors as well as separate budget/ DDO powers. Since its inception many faculty posts were filled up by staff from GMC and Associate hospitals, some doctors have also been appointed directly but there is still acute shortage of senior faculty/resident doctors/registrars. The state government initially decided to bring senior and competent doctors from outside for some super-specialty wings but the main problem in bringing these from outside is huge pay anomaly and of course discriminatory Article 370 and 35 A. Which doctor will like to devote his life to a hospital of a state where he cannot buy a house or his child cannot get admission in any state professional college as well as state job? Some of the doctors from J&K working outside were also approached at individual level with personal initiative but due to huge wage difference no positive results could be achieved. Therefore the matter was taken up afresh with the state finance department but despite being functional for more than five years no decision has been taken till date and matter gets further complicated due to inordinate delay by JKPSC in recruitment of faculty. GMC Jammu is not having PG courses of any of these six specialties offered at SSH and SSH itself is not a medical college, it is also not part of GMC as such it has to be wholly dependent upon general surgery PGs of GMC that too on adhoc basis of two months, so practically by the time these resident doctors get a bit of these departments they are reverted back to GMC and even the number of these adhoc PGs is too insufficient to run 24X7 hospital successfully. Absence of Registrars is another critical issue which also hampers functioning of SSH and reasons are same as of resident doctors. Same is the story of other paramedical staff as even they too don’t have specialized expertise to provide post operative special care to the patients. As they say resident doctors are the backbone of any hospital so SSH is practically providing skeleton operational services defying the very promise of providing most advanced and world class medical facilities to the patients of the state.
The other major bottleneck being faced by SSH is no separate budget and no DDO powers to anyone in SSH with the result practically no direct role in projecting future necessary things, no direct say in crucial policy matters and only clubbed budget with GMC with no clearly demarked funds for specific projects like drugs, fluids, machinery, AMC and other store items. SSH has only one oxygen plant, only one air conditioning plant, only one operational lift out of three all this due to non availability of sufficient funds for AMCs, maintenance or provision of backup secondary oxygen or AC plant. One can imagine the consequence of breakdown of oxygen plant or in peak summers non functional AC plant or for that matter failure of single operational lift. Without DDO powers no emergency drugs can be purchased on emergency basis or for that matter for every day to day working crucial on spot expenses SSH has to look for approval from GMC. This is despite the fact that SSH Jammu has separate DDO code, separate TAN number, separate TDN number, separate sub head under major head and Chest Disease Hospital, Psychiatry Hospital, Super Specialty Hospital Srinagar or any associated hospital of GMC Jammu and GMC Srinagar, Medical Superintendent has been assigned powers of DDO in the absence of accounts officer’s post except SSH Jammu. Is this not a deliberate discrimination with SSH Jammu or are there any vested interests of powers to be? Why this specifically for SSH Jammu only, there is no specific reason or answer which itself explains how serious are respective governments about successful functioning of SSH.
Cardio and Neuro departments of SSH are the only specialized departments of their own in the whole Jammu Division which even provide services to public of Kashmir also throughout the year but still depriving SSH the requisite budget, infrastructure, independence for future growth is nothing but criminal negligence only and it seems practically Super Specialty Hospital is itself on ‘Ventilator’. Why authorities as well as politicians are totally silent on this vital institution of Jammu is beyond one’s imagination? Either the private nursing homes, politicians, bureaucracy nexus are too strong or discrimination towards Jammu can be the other reason.
Despite all these odds one must appreciate the never say die approach of some faculty members of SSH who tirelessly work extra hours to provide their best services to the suffering masses of Jammu and ever increasing number of OPD patients as well as indoor patients speak about it with Cardio itself having almost forty thousand OPD patients last year. Special mention of HOD Cardio and his team who can be seen attending to OPDs even at late evenings far beyond official timing till the last registered patient is attended to. With this team of dedicated staff one can imagine what miracles this hospital can do if proper equipment, appropriate strength of staff, para medicos, proper budget and other infrastructure is made available. But menace of private practice by doctors of SSH also is another important aspect not to be ignored. Healthcare of Jammu is in total shambles with no one sincerely trying to think about the public. For even small problems people of Jammu have to rush to Amritsar, CMC/DMC Ludhiana, PGIMER/Fortis/Escorts Chandigarh or AIIMS and other costly private institutions at Delhi but where will the poor patients go.
Central government has no doubt provided masses with health insurance cards but one requires infrastructure and manpower to run hospitals efficiently and with present strength of faculty, budget and wrong policies it is next to impossible for SSH to provide 24X7 unhindered services. If state government is not able to fulfill requirements of infrastructure/faculty/budget to run one single GMC/SSH how are they going to run new upcoming medical colleges is a million dollar question. With AIIMS nowhere in sight for at least next ten years how government is going to provide critical healthcare facilities is anyone’s guess. One hopes better sense prevails and instead of only verbal assurances during elections something tangible is done to uplift the medical facilities especially of Cardio and Neuro as patients of any of these two don’t have enough of crucial time to survive. Only time will tell whether government takes corrective measures to streamline SSH or people of Jammu have to further suffer in future also for even basic medical facilities.