Sunday, February 15, 2009

How Sick Is My Valley?

In 3 years, valley hospitals sell 1.32 crore OPD ticket
Kashmiris spend Rs 1000 crore on drug purchase annually.
Srinagar, Feb 14: The figures are staggering: For last three years 16 lakh OPD tickets have been sold by the Sheri Kashmir Institute of the Medical Sciences (SKIMS.) The Associated Hospital of the Government Medical College Srinagar has sold nearly 36.81 lakh OPD tickets in last three years. The Health Department has sold over 80 lakh tickets in past three years.
In 2008, the SKIMS sold 735359 OPD tickets, highest in four years. In the same year the Government Medical College has sold 129500 tickets improving one lakh on previous years figure. In 2007-2008, 64 lakh OPD tickets were sold by the Health Department.    
 The controversial census of 2001 describes the population of the valley 54 lakhs. “The figures indicate that people visit hospitals in large numbers,” says a consultant in GMC. He however said that the sale of OPD tickets doesn’t mean that equal number of people have visited the hospital. He said on one OPD ticket patient visits hospital at least three times.
With large number of people visiting the hospitals, Kashmir has become heaven for drug companies as well. The deputy drug controller Nazir Ahmad Wani says there are 11000 chemist and wholesalers in Kashmir. He says annually they do the business of over Rs 300 crores in Kashmir valley. However, Fayaz Ahmad Azad the General Secretary of the Chemists and Distributors Association says drug companies do business upto Rs 600 crore annually in Kashmir Valley. 
 Last year a leading pharmaceutical company owner in Srinagar had stated that people in Kashmir annually consume drugs worth Rs 1000 crore. Last year the Health Department has purchased drugs worth Rs 8.9 crores.
 The Principal Government Medical College Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Shah doesn’t describe the situation as alarming. He says people are aware about their health problems and they visit the SKIMS and the GMC and its associated hospital knowing well that they would get better health care facility there. “At the district level people usually don’t get the better facilities and this prompts them to visit the SKIMS and the associated hospitals of GMC,” Dr Shah said. He however said the flow of patients was causing problem for the hospitals. “If we start taking patients on referrals from the districts hospital that would help to improve the health system and reduce the burden on the SKIMS and the associated hospitals of the GMC,” Shah said.  
 He said associated hospital of GMC being tertiary care hospitals cater 35 percent of Kashmir valley. Senior doctors of GMC said that the patients seen by the tertiary care GMC and associated hospital and the SKIMS are huge considering their manpower and infrastructure. “There is some thing seriously wrong with the system and it has to be set in order,” said a consultant.
 The senior doctors of SKIMS said the day the SKIMS and the GMC would refuse to see patients without referrals that day would expose the Health system in Kashmir. 
  “It is not well for the SKIMS. The SKIMS is the institute for the research purpose and it is meant to see only referral patients and emergency cases,” said a senior doctor of the SKIMS pleading anonymity. He said patients who visit without referrals to the SKIMS is “huge burden on the hospital.” 
 The Director Health Kashmir Dr Muzaffer agrees that the tertiary care hospitals are over-burdened. He says there is need to create 300 bed hospitals at the district level and recruit specialists. He said there was need to infuse more manpower and infrastructure in rural health sector.
 A senior doctor of SKIMS has other view on the issue. He said for past so many years doctors come up with researches that have no basis like stating 40 percent youth from 25-40 age group are suffering from diabetes. “I think such claims create panic and people rush to hospitals,” said a senior doctor of SKIMS pleading anonymity.
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