The Jammu and Kashmir government has been working tirelessly at the gross root level to improve all kinds of healthcare facilities in government hospitals for the well-being of ailing patients. For this purpose, the government has pumped and invested a whopping amount of rupees under various revolutionary policies and schemes for strengthening the basic health care infrastructures in hospitals. Although most of the hospitals have been modernised and well equipped with modern machinery and technology however, many hospitals particularly in rural areas still lack well-equipped modern machinery and technology. Despite good infrastructure facilities available in urban government hospitals, the majority of patients, the rich or the poor, are moving to private hospitals instead of government hospitals for their better health care facilities and treatment. What forces patients to move to the private hospitals and is there any difference between government and private hospitals in terms of patient care and facilities. Are doctors in private hospitals more knowledgeable and experienced in terms of diagnosis and treatment? There are a multitude of reasons that push the majority of patients to go to private hospitals for their better health care facilities. The standard medical practice suggests that a doctor ought to check up twenty patients a day but as per the survey conducted, the doctor patient ratio in the Jammu and Kashmir government hospitals is very low 1: 2000. Almost all government hospitals are overburdened with a huge number of poor patients and every day huge numbers of patients are waiting for their consultation in long endless queues. Many patients after being fed up in long queues left for their homes without doctors consultations. For the past many years, urban hospitals like The SMHS and the SKIMS have been receiving thousands of referral cases owing to non-availability of the full health care facilities in rural areas. Daily routine of referral cases to city hospitals is adding burden on the doctors and paramedics. Due to the huge rush of patients, particularly urban government hospitals, the quality patient care is getting compromised on each and every step and with the result majority of ailing patients move to private hospitals for their better treatment. Lack of adequate staff to cater the patient rush in government hospitals is also hampering quality patient care and is another reason responsible for patients moving to private hospitals. Unnecessary delay in treatment and proper care after admission of patients in government hospitals is another reason. Majority of admitted patients have to wait for a long time for their treatment and even emergency patients have to wait in city hospitals. Unnecessary delay and waiting in hospitals for hours are not causing only mental torture to patients and attendants’ but deaths to many patients. At many times, negligence by government doctors in hospitals is the reason for deaths of patients. The past deaths of many women particularly at LD hospital due to sheer negligence had sent shivers down the spine among the common people. Patient satisfaction is one of the important factors for attracting patients that is almost very low in government hospitals because check-up of a patient by a doctor is done just for one or two minutes only due to the huge rush of patients. It is pertinent to mention that private hospitals in Jammu and Kashmir although are very expensive in terms of treatment costs but the rich, middle class and even poor people choose and prefer them for ailing patients for quick services of treatment in contemporary times. The doctors and paramedics on duty in private hospitals check-up patients for many minutes with full satisfaction of patients. Staff nurses posted there also left no stone unturned to provide every kind of help to the patients with utmost care. Shortage of accommodation for patients and attendants in many government hospitals craves attention of authorities. In the SMHS and LD hospital, the situation of patients in emergency wards and labour rooms respectively depict the lack of adequate space and it becomes very difficult for doctors to manage the patient care. Shortage of patient beds are adding further woes to the ailing patients. Two to three patients are being accommodated on a single bed at LD hospital in general wards due to huge and heavy rush of inter district patients. There is also a dearth of space for attendants of patients in hospitals and attendants are always struggling for space. Attendants’ space shortage presents a scene of misery in government hospitals at night because corridors are packed with attendants and their belongings.
The condition of the civic facilities in overcrowded government hospitals is not good. Filthy washrooms with broken latches, blocked hoses, broken taps and leaking taps, overflowing sewers, clogged sinks and foul and stinking smells in washrooms are giving tough time to the patients and attendants. Bedside folded screens that maintain privacy of ailing patients are in very limited numbers in wards of hospitals’. The bed-ridden patients feel ashamed during the urination and defecation process in presence of attendants. Majority of qualified and experienced government doctors are indulged in private practices and they are persuading patients to visit their clinics and private hospitals for consultation where patients have to spend huge amounts even for small procedures. The said doctors most times also force patients to purchase medicines and go for medical tests at particular places. It is not only a crime but against the code of ethics and norms of the medical profession. It deprives the poor and underprivileged people of the fundamental right of affordable treatment. The gravity of the emergency theatres in hospitals is such that the patients, which need immediate surgeries, will get their turn after months. Their diseases at initial stages easily reach the last stage due to long waiting times. The surgeries by doctors at the last stage of diseases are just like conducting experiments and research. The patients deserve accessible, affordable and quality care treatment that is their fundamental right. They are paying huge money in the form of various taxes for government services including the right to affordable and quality health care services. The Jammu and Kashmir government should take many reformative measures for the advancement and up gradation of health care infrastructures in all government hospitals. Strengthening of health care infrastructure in rural hospitals will ease burden in city hospitals. Appointment of more doctors and other paramedics through recruitment boards will plug staff shortage in hospitals. Special health care schemes should be launched on a war footing basis that will address poor drainage systems, filthy toilets, washrooms, and accommodation problems for attendants as well. Establishment of robust health care facilities in government hospitals can ensure accessible, affordable and quality care service for the benefit of all ailing patients and it will definitely stop moving of patients to private hospitals as well as reduce burden of patients in urban government hospitals. Let us hope for good investment from the government for the all-round infrastructure development of infrastructure for all the government hospitals.
(The author is a teacher at Boys Higher Secondary School Beerwah. Views are his own)