Monitoring Desk: Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy ( PIPFPD) based in India has released a Fact Finding Report (FFR) about medical services in Indian Occupied Kashmir under the title of “Right to Life in Kashmir”.
Report documented by Menaka Rao and Anumeha Yadav travelled to four districts in Kashmir (read as Indian Occupied Kashmir) in September and spoke to patients and their family members, doctors, counsellors and pharmacists.
Important points are FFP are as follow:
Report states that communication blackout had hit the health services badly.
In the largest public hospital in Srinagar, the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), FFR team met Bilal Ahmed, who is from Tral in Pulwama district where a suicide bomber had rammed into a Central Reserve Police Force convoy killing 40. This was in February this year. Tral lies 45km from Srinagar. Ahmed told us he wanted to restock medicines for his seriously ill father-in-law.
“It became clear at the Soura Institute (SKIMS) that my father-in-law had blood cancer. We were sent back home. One week later, I returned to pick up medicines. I was stopped by forces at Awantipora, I showed the institute card, told them that my father-in-law was the patient and that he had blood cancer, so please let us go. They refused, they asked me to bring the patient. I told them that he couldn’t get up but I was told to go back, no medicines if no patient. Let the patient die.”
At Lal Ded hospital in Srinagar, a man from Amarnath told us that the situation was so tense that he had brought his pregnant sister 10 days before her delivery date. The government insists that landline phones are sufficient but most Kashmiris don’t have a landline in their homes. He described how difficult he found it to access these phones to speak with his family members. “We have to go to the district commissioner to make a call. To the SSP. If I have to reach a family member during an emergency, I have to first go looking for the SSP. At any point in time, there are a 100 people waiting to get to him to make a call.”
In Safapora, 25 km from Srinagar, we met Mohammad Yusuf who lives in Ganderbal in Central Kashmir. He told us his mother-in-law had cancer.
“She was undergoing chemotherapy for days at a time. We were longing to contact her, but we couldn’t. We had to go to the district commissioner’s office to get a pass, but there are at least 20-25 checkposts to cross. We couldn’t get a curfew pass even. On September 1, she died.”
During her last days, the family couldn’t find her medicines or injections. “We scoured the whole market starting from the Soura institute for that one injection doctors had prescribed; we didn’t find it anywhere.”
Several doctors we interviewed told us they couldn’t reach the hospital for three days after the government put the valley under hard security measures on August 5. One doctor told us his patients from rural areas are still not coming for treatment. In the first few weeks of August, 90% of his patients didn’t reach the hospital. When we interviewed him, 43 days had passed but only half the patients could access the hospital. “If there’s a diabetes or hypertension crisis, people could die in the span of 10-20 minutes if you don’t have access to the right treatment…”
In Bandipora, a hilly district about 60km from Srinagar, it is even harder to access and distribute medicines. Tariq, who ran the fair price medical store at the district hospital, told us he was short on essential medicines and that he found it difficult to replenish stocks.
In late August, Omar Saleem, a urologist at the government medical college in Srinagar told journalists that patients were suffering. He protested that public hospitals were unable to process Ayushman Bharat claims – the Prime Minister’s flagship scheme for health insurance. He was detained immediately after the protest for a few hours.
“Yeh ek ittejaj nahi hai, yeh ek intejaah hai. This is NOT a protest. This is a REQUEST. Our entire healthcare system will soon turn into a humanitarian crisis. We are especially unable to provide free treatment to below-the-poverty-line patients under the ayushman bharat yojana. All our patients, my patients, are buying medicines, getting dialysis treatments, getting chemotherapy done out of their own pockets.”
A counsellor from Bandipora’s district hospital, whose patients from rural districts have been unable to reach the hospital for treatment and counselling, said that they had suffered. They asked what is the promise of development when their basic rights had been taken away in Kashmir.