One element can not be refuted about late sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, his deep sensitivity towards misery faced by people of Kashmir during autocratic rule. Sheikh Abdullah as leader was result of Kashmiri people’s sufferings and pain experienced by them at the cruel hands of their tormentors. Sheikh Sahib was much concerned about hygiene and health of his fellow Kashmiris and his doctrine of healthy society for great nation was pursued and practised by him throughout his active public life. How far and how long his mission of ‘great nation through healthy body and mind’ is followed by his successors and his followers’ only time will tell. Many years back an elderly man in Lolab area of district Kupwara told me about Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s visit to some remote area of Lolab valley prior to liberation from autocratic rulers, when he was real leader of masses. That old man mentioned how Sheikh Sahib was so moved by the poor hygiene and health of people who had come to have a glimpse of their leader that he did not utter even a single word about emancipation and politics of liberation, instead he lectured people about hygiene and gave them tips about basic healthcare. During that particular visit his concern for people’s hygiene and health highlights the brighter side of Sheikh’s persona as leader. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah faced many political ups and downs and made many wise and disastrous decisions during his leadership and political carrier but his mission for all round healthy society was very dare and close to his heart. On attaining power in seventies after his long political isolation Sheikh Sahib’s first move was to bargain a modern and vast healthcare system with the Indian leadership and so SKIMS (Sher-i-Kashmir institute of medical sciences) was bartered and given shape at his native erstwhile Soura village now part of suburbs of Srinagar city. No leader or political leadership can think of creating such a vast and modern health care infrastructure for another fifty years.
SKIMS design wise is a super speciality institute ahead of many other healthcare institutes in the region. This institute has been conceived, designed, and shaped on an elevated land facing Anchar Lake with a conception not only to provide quality health care to local populace but to harvest the potential of medical tourism within the congenial environment of picturesque Kashmir. Anchar was made to be part of SKIMS to improve its environs and landscape aspects where terminally ill patients would enjoy treasures of nature and enhance their quality of life. Its specialized infrastructure can make any visionary to visualise about the concept of medical tourism conceived by the planners. Resourceful architecture, improved heating system, helipads, modern well equipped research centres, modern equipment, and well equipped and facelitated inpatient wards make this institute at par with any other world class healthcare and research infrastructure. Every department and feature of SKIMS was conceived and devised in line with the international standards but with the passage of time SKIMS also became victim of degrading administrative pattern and lack of accountability. Thus a major healthcare institution became breeding ground of inefficiency , lobbyism and mismanagement. Politics made inroads into the corridors of this prestigious institute. SKIMS being a research oriented academic and treatment centre cannot afford to pursue its quality research and academic excellence in isolation at the cost of patient’s rights and their lives. Lobbyism cannot be allowed to flourish by depriving terminally ill patients their right of dignified treatment. Unless scientists and doctors of SKIMS understand the dual importance of this institution’s patients will keep on suffering and dying in pain; agony will become their fate.
Anchar Lake, which was supposed to be part of landscape of SKIMS project is at the moment serving as soakage pit for the filthy liquid hospital waste and dumping ground for solid waste. On the immediate rear of SKIMS Anchar lake has turned into a cesspool where all harmful hospital waste is allowed to make way for land reclamation by the maintenance wing of the institute and thus once beautiful water body is turning into sick marsh. The facade of main building particularly the new paid block is becoming shabby with every passing day due to the negligence and lack of aesthetics by engineering and maintenance wing of the institute. Landscape plan and structures were the exemplary part of SKIMS at the time of its commissioning but now same green patches have been turned into open air jails with towering iron fencing. Instead of making these places peoples friendly and utility oriented every patch of green space has been caged to remind people of earlier autocracy and dictatorship.
Every SKIMS administration and management has been deceptive and working with flimsy line of action. Instead of managing crowds they divert maximum public towards the rear of the institute making every one to believe that everything is fine. People are made to enter the inpatients wards through garbage ramp while as garbage is virtually being thrown out of windows. These visitors are the main carriers of infection as they carry part of waste back to the cleaned wards with their steps. Attendants and visitors bring in their belongings all through the filthy atmosphere. By throwing all norms of hygiene and healthcare to winds administration has placed parking, community dining room for attendants, attendants belongings store room, garbage vent, and entrance almost at the same place.
Security scenario of SKIMS is in shambles. Only job of SKIMS security staff is to humiliate humble and poor and appease rich and mighty. Security which is mostly required at night is almost out of scene at this crucial point of time. SKIMS is completely thrown to thugs and drug addicts during night. Every anti-social element finds it the safest heaven during night and patients and night-shift staff being at maximum risk are placed at the mercy of these disruptive elements. For having well synchronized security apparatus in place basic requirement of proper communication system like walkie talkies (hand sets) can be seen nowhere at SKIMS, leave alone CCTV system.
Transparency always lacked in the management and administration of SKIMS particularly after the death of late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah it became much worse. Management trust with cronies and sycophants as its members and administration plagued with yes ministers became order of the day. It will be out of place and against decorum to pin point and name such elements but ‘janta sab janti hai’ . Present government made it a point to overhaul SKIMS management but only to accommodate old wine in new bottles. This was not expected from young leadership. But when leaders are surrounded by ‘ kaan key kachay’ cronies no one can decide on merits. Administration has been no difference. In the first instance we should strictly adhere to thumb rule of discouraging technocrats and scientists to venture into the bumpy fields of administration. Managing a patient and research centre is different than managing public. So no doctor should in any way be considered for the post of director SKIMS as it being a complex administrative assignment no doctor or scientist can do justice with it. Aspiration for the top administrative post developed animosity among all senior doctors and thus started ‘ sab kuch jaiz hai’ race for the top post. These noble souls exposed each other to the extent of their undergarments and made mockery of scientist fraternity and politicians added their traditional fuel to the fire at all occasions.
There is much more to write and say about the pathetic condition of SKIMS but limitation of space is the biggest constraint. Baki phir kabhi.
These lines are dedicated to my late father who met with his creator on 11th of February watching in desperation Confluence of filth, disease and mockery in an atmosphere of inefficiency, lobbyism, and complete chaos at the door steps of temple of health care (SKIMS) for more than a month.