An urgent project to construct an underground operation theatre by Military Engineering Service (MES) to cater to troops deployed in the forward areas of Jammu and Kashmir took 12 years to fructify by which time the hospital itself had moved to another area, leaving the operation theatre redundant.
This has been revealed in the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) which was tabled in the parliament on Tuesday. The report pointed out that the project itself took ten years to get completed and the total time taken from the date of approval of the project to the final completion came to 12 years.
The CAG noted that urgent operational work, which was stipulated to be completed within two years, was actually completed after 12 years of the sanction, thereby denying the lifesaving facility to the troops in operations. The casualties requiring surgical treatment were either airlifted or evacuated by road to nearby hospitals and now that operation theatre is lying unutilized. The matter was referred to the Ministry of Defence in January 2016 for their comments by the CAG but their reply was awaited till March 2016 when the report was finalised.
The report points out that to avoid any eventuality of the existing Military Hospital (MH) becoming non-functional in case of shelling from across the border with Pakistan, the necessity for construction of an underground operation theatre was felt by the Military Hospital at Tangdhar in Jammu and Kashmir. The MH had proposed that with a surgeon specialist, anesthetist and medical specialist posted with the hospital, the underground operation theatre can be used for providing uninterrupted patient care in case of an emergency.
The General Officer Commanding of the Corps accepted the necessity on urgent military and operational reasons and accorded a ‘go ahead sanction’ for Rs 70 lakhs, invoking the relevant rules of Defence Works Procedure (DWP), in July 1999, for construction of the operation theatre. The work was to be completed within two years. Regular administrative approval was accorded by Ministry of Defence in November 2004 for Rs 1.39 Crore. For execution of the work, a contract was concluded by Chief Engineer Srinagar Zone in September 2000 for a lump sum of Rs 1.25 crore with date of completion being September 2002.
Despite the operational urgency, The Military Engineering Service (MES) could not complete the project in time. The construction work was delayed due to a number of problems like seepage from floor and walls leading to flooding of operation theatre, which was attributed by Headquarters Northern Command to poor workmanship by the contractor and lack of proper supervision by MES.
In April 2008, while the construction work was still in progress, the MH for which the operation theatre was being constructed was shifted to a different location (Drugmulla) and a forward surgical centre (FSC) of a field hospital was shifted to Tangdhar. With this relocation of hospitals, Tangdhar station was effectively without any dedicated hospital, as the FSC was only a detachment of a field hospital. There were no surgeon specialist or anaesthetist posted in the FSC.
The CAG report further says that due to continued seepage in the operation theatre, the headquarters of the local infantry division constructed a retaining wall and drain up to the depth of foundation to prevent underground water seepage in March 2011 and the construction was finally completed in June 2011 and handed over to the users in September 2011.