Unfolding capacity and competency of Health Care System

Mahesh Chander Sudan

We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, are encouraged to note that the existing public health care system of the UT has appropriately molded itself to match the requirement arising out of stressful pandemic ridden environment except for few aberrations. No doubt, it has earned confidence of honorable LG by extending professional medical care to one of his family member at GMC Jammu and moved a step ahead in conveying healthy message to people of the Jammu Province who cannot afford private hospitalization like high ranking officials and political leaders. The ongoing wave of the COVID 19 posed peculiarly big challenge to medical facilities across the nation not only in terms of competency but in capacity as well. It may not be out of place to mention that people of JKUT are fully dependent on Government run health care system due to limited private facilities available across the Union Territory.
This limits the options for people and stretches government run medical facilities beyond their capacity and competence at times. Recent surge in COVID cases have proved that health care sector of the UT needs phenomenal updating in terms of men and machinery to provide minimum health care services to needy rural and far flung hilly population. Dependence on territorial hospitals of two provinces needs to be suitably transferred to district hospitals with upgraded medical facilities in terms of latest medical equipment and skilled medical and para medical staff.
The alarming recent surge of COVID cases has though challenged health care system across the country unprecedentedly. Helplessness of the system in Union Capital and in metros like Mumbai must compel us to ramp up our facilities to fight battle against the pandemic. We are aware that people of JKUT have limited option of depending on government run medical facilities spread across the territory in the form of territorial, district, community and primary health centers.
Barring territorial hospitals located at twin capital cities and few district hospitals co- located with Govt. Medical Colleges, rest all health centers are not self-reliant in terms of specialized professional knowledge and advance medical equipment even to an extent of well-established Laboratories. These system deficiencies defeat medical teams in providing required health service even in normal times and resultantly adds burden for territorial hospitals. Situation has worsened during pandemic, creating a chaotic and unmanageable affair for team of medical and para medical staff of emergency ward of Government Medical college, Jammu. Non availability of doctors at rural health centers has widely been covered by print and visual media but all in vain. At times, it reflects the insensitivity of the system that allows these deficiencies to continue at the cost of public health care. Higher officials of the health department apparently are either helpless or tacitly permitting it to continue as an accepted routine.
In the present scenario, we are confronting unprecedented surge of COVID cases that demands concerted effort to save precious lives by ramping up existing dedicated facilities for Corona patients with basic inputs like oxygen, specific medicines and Intensive care units with life supporting equipment. Days ahead are full of challenges and available four functional facilities at GMC, CD Hospital and two facilities in Gandhi Nagar Hospital complex are overtasked even today. None of these facilities have adequate staff to provide any help/guidance to patients under home isolation in terms of home visit or ambulance service for any emergency/carrying out CT Scan etc for determining required course of medication. Home isolation of mild virus affected patients is helping system in shedding load of hospitals and it therefore needs to be encouraged under assured medical advice.
As published in the local print media, it is noticed that our facilities may find it difficult to handle patients requiring oxygen and ICU care in the coming days unless the infection is arrested through other means like Corona Lockdown, curfew, strict adherence of protocol and speedy vaccination. A concerted effort to ensure multipronged coordinated approach by all stake holders may help system to wage war against second wave of virus and strengthen our system to prepare for future waves of infection in as it is being discussed world over by scientists and doctors. We may have to hire additional medical and general staff for smooth functioning of the facilities without allowing fatigue to affect the proficiency of involved staff.
It is seen that the ground reality differs from the claims made by administration across India especially at most affected cities and this causes worry in the mind of people from JKUT. The health care system all over is overwhelmed with load much more than their capacity. Cases of deaths due to shortage of oxygen are seen across the country for couple of weeks and are still uncontrolled. Information shared on media by various experts including Director AIIMS, Dr. Guleria, suggest that the infection has not yet reached its peak and days ahead are more challenging for health care delivery system. It therefore clearly warns that we should not be complacent with the existing health infrastructure and make all out efforts to provide additional beds in all categories with sufficient quantity of oxygen and ventilators. It is also equally important to make provision for additional Medical, Para Medical and general hospital staff to cater for enhanced requirement and fatigue factor.
To overcome the gap between claims and on ground reality, the responsibility of senior heads of departments of concerned hospital, government officials of the Health Department and concerned authority of the LG administration become more crucial. Flow of information regarding COVID management should be more regular and transparent to help the system and mitigate worries of patients and their near and dear ones. Hospital administrations are expected to be proactive and more sensitive in handling loss of life and extend help as per protocol to avoid negativity as presently observed in the media. It demands coordination and cooperation from all involved government officials and people of Jammu and Kashmir to form an invincible fight against the virus to avoid any more loss of life. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
The author is Wg Cdr (Retd)