THE BLOG

The Kashmir Healthcare Crisis - 'Patients Have Been Dying' Says Doctor

06/10/2014 11:07 | Updated 05 December 2014

SRINAGAR: From the troubled waters of Kashmir, Dr Rumana Makhdoomi, wrote the haunting " As Our Hospitals Drowned" and told me:-

"There is a major destruction to the main hospitals including loss of vital machines. Hospitals are in a very damp state. Dampness breeds infections. Many snakes are roaming live in the hospital"

Without international aid, the humanitarian crisis is worsening. The NY Times reported a deepening healthcare crisis with a lack of basic supplies and threats of disease epidemics. Amongst a myriad of illnesses, increasing numbers of respiratory diseases are being reported. The 70 lakh population is now left one just one hospital and Kashmir faces a healthcare crisis.

The entrenched resentment with administrative mismanagement has erupted into anger and daily protests. Bureaucratic aid blocks has made daily life impossible. While the local media frantically presented the harsh reality, India was accused of a PR stunt.

Fury has gripped the population and writs are flying citing allegations of negligence in Supreme Court hearings . The government appears to be losing their grip.

In the middle of this chaos, doctors in the front-line are bravely trying to manage the fine line between life and death without equipment or international support.

The World Health Organisation [India] [WHO] responded but appeared unconcerned despite being shown the death rate of one hospital. Shocked by this response, the local doctors penned an evidence based rebuttal to WHO's lead, Dr Margaret Chan. The letter outlined the serious obstacles faced by the medical teams there.

"Government of India inputs, are factually incorrect, and a complete misrepresentation of the dire situation on ground," they wrote while detailing the serious threats posed to patient safety.

WHO India stands accused of misleading the public in this letter here .

The WHO said "All medical supplies that have been requested by the state government have been provided". The doctors disagreed with this assessment and wrote

"This contention is refuted by the fact that local voluntary groups such as Athrout, Help Poor Voluntary Trust and others have been requested by government hospitals to arrange medicines as the government is unwilling to assist. Further, disturbing reports suggest that medicine that was provided by the army to SMHS recently was in fact expired. Confirmed reports suggest that as far as medical supplies are concerned, the hospitals are purely managing on voluntary contributions and supplies. These supplies are also in danger of being restricted by the government"

They finally wrote:-

In reality, despite a passage of one month since the floods hit Srinagar city, neither Government of India, nor Government of Jammu and Kashmir, have made any efforts to rebuild the healthcare system"

Kashmir Voluntary Doctors Organisation's Dr O. Akhtar who initially tweeted his utter shock at WHO India's assessment said

"The other day, a patient who had suffered an electrocution came to SMHS hospital. According to my colleagues there, they could not manage her there, and ended up referring her to Skims. She lost her life on the way. I think people in the administration don't understand that a tertiary care hospital, to function as a tertiary care hospital, needs to have an oxygen supply, proper diagnostic facilities, a reliable power back up, a semblance of intensive care". His blistering critique of WHO India response read "Firstly, the maternity hospital is NOT functioning. And is unlikely to be functional for at least ten days from now.Secondly, no mention of the fact that the pediatric hospital is down. Skims single ward neonatal unit is simply not equipped to handle the rush. And patients have been dying"

In the meantime, a fuming press release from Doctors Association Kashmir announced a Public Interest Litigation. They wrote

"DAK will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a probe into hospital deaths during floods. There was no alert to hospitals and the stranded patients were not rescued timely with the result 13 precious lives were lost in SMHS and scores of infants died in GB Pant and LD hospitals. We are moving to court to fix responsibility of deaths and punish people involved in criminal negligence"

With time racing forward to a severe winter of discontent, the doctors of Kashmir have requested international assistance from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations. They state that their own administration are " deep slumber, shying away from their responsibility as if they have nothing to do with the difficulties of people". It is clear that patient safety is in jeopardy in Kashmir and this is an emergency call for assistance before its too late.