Critical care in peripheral areas still ‘critical’, young lives being lost for want of adequate facilities

Syed Junaid Hashmi

JAMMU, May 23: Sudden cardiac arrest of 18 year old Tanveer Hussain, a college going student of Rajouri, coupled with allegations of non-availability of ambulance has raised questions over the claims of the state government of having improved healthcare facilities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The death led to violent protests followed by Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rajouri Shahid Iqbal Choudhary constituting medical board comprising of 3 doctors for post-mortem. Administration succeeded in convincing students that they would look into the matter with utmost seriousness and take action if required.

But the larger question is, had the student reached hospital on time and then, had the ambulance been available, the life of the youngman could have been saved. The administration said that out of five ambulances available at District Hospital, four had been rushed to Jammu with critical patients while one ambulance was deputed to workshop. Another ambulance was rushed from Manjakote as hospital management had to hand over the body and provide ambulance after completion of formalities but a group of youth forcibly took the body away.

The group of youth who took away the body should be questioned and even if required, taken to task for having taken law in their own hands. The cardiac arrest of the youngman is not a rarity and this has been happening across the world these days but question is had the hospital been adequately equipped, life of youngman could have been saved. And if saving the life would not have been possible, atleast the family could have applauded the efforts doctors made. But the family has been left angry, shattered and frustrated.

One needs not to reiterate that credible reports indicate Jammu and Kashmir having become hub of the spurious medicines. It has rather become a fact of life in this part of the world. Only recently, a national level drug survey in India has claimed that 8.37 per cent of drugs provided in government-run hospitals in J&K have been found not of standard quality. All this happens despite the existence of a full-fledged central level legislation on the point. This is horrifying.

What’s more, doctors are very part of the phenomenon in that they prescribe drugs with the trade name rather than the generic one. This is actually the point where the problem, in fact, starts.  Currently, over five million cases of medical negligence are recorded on an average every year in India ranging from wrong drugs to the uncalled for surgeries. Needless to say, doctors contribute to the problem in a phenomenal way. India Medical Times reported a 110% cumulative increase in medical negligence cases per year in India.

Doctors posted at the government hospitals more often lure patients to their private clinics.  Recommending medical tests have become the norm with the twenty-first century doctors. A casual visit to doctor’s clinic can land you in a medical laboratory for an unnecessary examination. Again, doctors are not at bay in matters of sex selection and the killing of female foetus. Recent census figures, which show a skewed sex ratio in the state, are an indicator.

The scenario got worse when the Apex Court, in 2011, after hearing a writ petition that challenged a government order banning private practice of doctors, ruled that defying the ban doesn’t amount to any illegality or corruption. Having reached a point of no return, all this is an utter disregard of the Hippocratic Oath. It happens despite the Geneva Declaration, 1948, adopted by the World Medical Assembly, directed the member countries to take punitive measures against the violators of sacred oath. Now, financial gain appears to be the prime object of medical profession. Service to humanity is only supplementary. It’s time to translate the Geneva Declaration, 1948 into action.

An advocate may cause asset-loss to his client; a teacher may seek pearls from private tuition, but a doctor’s deviation destructs life, results in economic loss and causes mental agony. State should take all possible steps to reform the health sector in toto. Peripheral health institutions need to be upgraded especially district hospitals. Adequate number of ambulances should be available in all the hospitals. The healthcare facilities should be of highest order and no one should be allowed to play with the lives of the commoners. Law should be made more stringent.

Every death should ring alarm bells and the state should take all possible steps to penalise officials responsible for these deaths. And if accountability becomes the norm, state health sector would witness sea change within short span of time. Jammu and Kashmir should not wait for things to change on their own but take corrective steps at the earliest.



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