In the Cath Lab of Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) J-K’s premiere tertiary care hospital- the private firms dealing in cardiology implants have put their salesmen inside the lab,selling products needed during the procedures and thus turning this hospital facility into a shop for exclusive private firms.
Sources in the hospital reveal that three private companies have access to the Cath Lab S M marketing,Hansraj Enterprises and Sundas Enterprises.
Today,the representative of Sundas Enterprises is present. One of the paramedics comes out to inform Ghulam Ahmad Ganaie’s attendants that he is being catherised and needs a balloon which is not available with the hospital. “They came out and showed us a guy and asked us to pay him eighteen thousand rupees for the balloon,they put inside my father’s heart,” says Firdous Ahmad,whose father is the patient.
“This is not a healing centre but a den of butchers. Everyone here is after money and they loot poor and helpless patients.” Ahmad says that his father has a heart blockade. “The doctors here are robbing us”.
As the attendants are arranging the money,a paramedic keeps coming out in corridor. Clear the bills of ‘Sundas Enterprises’ first,” he shouts. The procedure is supervised by a senior cardiologist and former SKIMS director,Dr Jalal-u-Din. ”It is because of the absolute failure of hospital system and unavailability of life saving stuff.
That is why (private) companies have access inside the theatres,” Jalal explains later over phone. “The hospital doesn’t even have 20 percent of what it should have. We have to keep these authorized companies around because we need them during emergencies,” he says.
Jalal blames the SKIMS authorities for this mess. It is the absolute failure of Hameed Zargar (the SKIMS Director) that the hospital is in shambles. He (Zargar) has become a puppet in the hands of private practitioners who are senior doctors here. In the process,Kashmiris are suffering,” he says. The current SKIMS director Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar replaced Jalal after an ugly court battle in 2007. And the faculty and staff in this premier hospital are vertically divided between pro-Zargar and pro-Jalal camps.
In the corridor,the attendants start doing additions and subtractions because the money they had been initially asked to arrange is far less than what the paramedics is demanding. “They told us that one lakh rupees will be needed for the operation but now after the payments to the ‘Sundas’,our expenses have reached to more than one lakh sixty thousand rupees,” Firdous Ahmad says.
“We had raised this money by borrowing from all our relatives. Now who will give us half a lakh this time”.
The Sundas Enterprises which also has an office outside the SKIMS premises sells “super specialty disposables” and “implants for cardiology,cardiac surgery,nephrology and Intensive Cardiac-Care Unit (ICCU)” of a company called Fresenius Medical Care.
Junaid Khan,the owner of Sundas Enterprises claims that his firm was doing a favour to the patients by being present there. “It is bad of the hospital that they don’t have these implants and other stuff but we are not doing anything wrong. The doctors call us and order these things during surgeries,” Khan says.
Sources reveal two other Jammu based marketing companies Hans Raj and SM Enterprises are the main suppliers of pacemakers,stents and balloons inside the hospital. Both have representatives present in the hospital premises and have access to the Cath Lab. Infact,a patient contacted the owner of SM Enterprises in presence of this correspondent and was told that he would get whatever he wanted. “Our man will meet you on Monday at the hospital and do let us know of the doctor. We will talk to the doctor ourselves,” says D K Malhotra of SM Enterprises.
When contacted,SKIMS Medical Superintendent Iftekhar Ahmad Bukhari strongly disapproved of private firms coming into the Cath Lab during “procedures”. “This is not legal. How can someone come there to sell products? They can do all that in their shops and not inside hospital premises,” Bukhari says. “We will act if you register a complaint with us”.
He agrees that such practices inside the SKIMS premises are a failure of the hospital authorities”.