Transport in the Kulgam district of Kashmir – a landscape of mountain ranges, farm lands, silt, snow and bad roads, tends to be prone to the occasional accident. If one, providence forbid, does suffer a mishap, the closest professional help can be found at the government hospital at Nihama village. To diagnose the extent of the damage the good doctors at the institution must call for an X-ray. For that simple sheet of X-ray, the unfortunate patient will have to travel another 20 kilometres. And all the while, the patient would do good to pray that this day is that one day of the week when the private X-ray clinic chooses to remain open. If the clinic greets the pain and agony of the victim with closed doors, there is but one final option – travel another few kilometres to the nearest private hospital and be ready to shell out a good part of your savings in return for some quality treatment and basic dignity.
The government hospital closest to IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Nadeem Andrabi ‘s community was constructed on promises of subsidised treatment for the people from over 40 villages in the locality. When Nadeem walked into the hospital with a sick relative he almost gagged at the putrid stench that wafted through its corridors. He contacted the authorities and informed them that he planned to produce a video on the state of disrepair of this important public institution in the region.
When he arrived after a few days, camera in hand, he saw that the hospital had made an attempt to save its face by cleaning up or rather, by sweeping the dirt under the carpet. Nadeem’s eye fell on the lock that tagged the X-ray room. “Why is this room locked?” he asked and the story came pouring out.
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Kulgam district installed the machine at the hospital with great fanfare. Within months, the machine stopped functioning. Help was called. It arrived and left, twice, without any solution to the problem. The head doctor of the hospital claims to have requested the CMO to address the issue but even as of today, the X-ray machine lies defunct. Little more than a giant paperweight. And the citizens of Kulgam are left with no option but to undergo a painful pilgrimage in the search for healthcare.
The state of the government hospital is Kulgam is symptomatic of the malaise of mismanagement that afflicts government hospitals across the country. In terms of qualitative care and infrastructure, they are found to be sorely lacking. Every once in a while, the media reports on fire hazards, surgical malpractices, lack of beds, lack of sanitation and other issues. Such conditions and the shocking news reports prompt the citizen towards private hospitals where healthcare does comes in a neat package but with a heavy price tag attached.
Nadeem sincerely hopes that the situation about the X-ray machine will be remedied soon. “How hard can it be for the government to fix an X-ray machine?” he asks. “It is putting undue stress on the people of the community. You can’t expect them to predict an accident. After all, it’s not like a road accident is going to update its status message before coming along and breaking your bones.”