Queues of patients are waiting outside the out patient department (OPD),but senior doctors are as usual late. Reason: the seniors are busy in private practice in their clinics just outside the district hospital Baramulla.
From half an hour I am waiting for a doctor. But,he will come late as he has to first finish his private clinic just outside the hospital, said Irshad Ahmad who had come from a remote Rafiabad village. I am a daily wage employee and cant afford to go to a private clinic of any doctor. So,I have no option but to wait. God knows when senior doctor will come and examine patients here, he said.
Ahmad is not alone dozens of other patients hold the same opinion about doctors posted in the district hospital. Private practice has become such a lucrative business in the town that some doctors are using hospital quarters as their private clinics. This is the only hospital in country where doctors use hospital space to make money. Even hospital equipment,theatres and other machines at times are being used by senior doctors for their private business, alleged Ghulam Qadir Dar,an elderly citizen who frequently visits hospital for different ailments. This has been happening here from past many years. And it will continue as administration is lenient towards doctors, he said.
Locals claim that they are not against private practice of the doctors but they want them to do justice to their patients inside the hospital too. The patients who seek advice of doctors at private clinics receive better treatment inside the hospital. And the patients who come straight to the hospital have to face problems, blamed Dar.
Established in 1932,the district hospital is one of the states oldest hospitals and caters to the medical needs of over one million people of North Kashmir. After seven decades nothing much has changed as this place is no better than a big Primary Health Centre. Besides,shortage of medics and paramedical staff,the hospital lacks proper infrastructure and equipment. There are only eight paramedics to run the five operation theatres.
Although this hospital is the only big health institute in North Kashmir,doctors here dont have access to a CT scan. The hospitals endosocopy equipment is also gathering dust from past many months. At times basic life saving tests like X-ray,ECG and blood tests are not being done in the hospital. There is no paediatrician in this hospital.
Locals complain that patients with minor ailments are most of the times either referred to Srinagar or are treated or operated by the doctors at the private clinics and nursing homes. I dont consider this place a district hospital. This is a big Primary Health Centre, said Fayaz Ahmad. We dont have any specialists posted in this hospital.
A senior hospital official denied that doctors are indulging in private practice during official hours. Its true doctors are doing private practice. But they do it during holidays, he said.