Rising Kashmir

Aejaz Iqbal


Doctors and other paramedical staff constitute a crucial part of our society. Despite a huge hue and cry over rapidly increasing population throughout the world, human beings have always tried to save their fellow beings in critical circumstances instead of pushing them to death.

Medical science has advanced to such a stage, where they have found answers to almost all the questions except death. Old medical procedures have been enhanced and new methods devised to limit the number of casualties throughout the world. In a time when scientists are trying to find a way out to defy death, we need to inspect our healthcare system to see where we stand.

Kashmir has remained traditional and orthodox in many spheres of life; but at the same time they have made advancements in all the important spheres of life; medical science is no exception.

Our Valley has produced eminent doctors and surgeons, who are renowned all over the world not only for the efficiency in their profession, but the invaluable service that they rendered to the society. Several awards have been conferred on doctors of the valley for their services across the world. However, this great trend seems to be waning in present times. Reasons are galore.

With the developments in the healthcare sector across the world, Jammu Kashmir too has tried to keep the facilities at par with the rest of the world. However, not all has gone or is going according to the plan.

Our healthcare sector is seriously faulty and below par which is one of the main reasons of a large number of casualties occurring in our Valley. The primary and secondary care hospitals in villages and other towns have a miserably poor infrastructure, facilities and manpower, which results in the frequent referring of the patients to the hospitals in Srinagar.

All this, in turn affects the patient care and the doctors in these hospitals. Poor infrastructure in the primary and secondary health centres, the non-availability of doctors in primary centres, the delay in treatment caused due to referring of the patients to sub-district hospitals and then to Srinagar, the huge rush of patients in city hospitals and many more factors combine together to affect the patient care in Valley, which often prove to be fatal.

Apart from the apparent effects, this condition of the healthcare sector in the state has far reaching consequences. The poor infrastructure in PHCs and SDHs, coupled with a lack of health awareness mainly affects the rural areas, particularly the female gender.

Government is making tall claims of empowering the women but the health condition of the women in Kashmir valley, particularly in rural areas, is enough to refute the claims. The health of women has been and is being ignored at their personal level, at the family level, at the society level and at the administrative level.

Majority of the rural areas have remained orthodox as far as the status of women is concerned. Women are still considered inferior to men and girls are deprived of their basic rights in the areas. Amid these the health of women is also ignored.

In most cases women tend to ignore their health problems, when it should be their prime concern. The social set up of many rural areas is such that women are forced to ignore their health problems at the earlier stage. They are taught to be patient and endure pains. Any health problem in them is considered a social evil and a hindrance in finding a good match.

Women thus try to hide their health problems because of the social stigma attached to it. They ignore small problems at the early stage, which go on to develop into major and complicated health problems, often beyond human help. They are scared to go through medical tests and hide even serious health problems from others.

Many women ignore their health problems due to shyness and non-availability of female doctors in the health centres. Women are constrained by household and domestic tasks or cultural norms which prevent them from travelling long distances to obtain medical care in the city hospitals.

The gynaecologist post in most of the PHCs is lying vacant as no doctor wants to work in a far off village. This adds to the woes as women cannot consult a specialist for their problems and often end up ignoring the problem or self-medication, which lead to serious consequences in the long run.

Moreover, the discrimination against a girl child in rural families also plays an important role towards ignoring the health of the females. Boys in rural families receive a comparatively better treatment than girls and thus the families also play a part in ignoring the health problems of their girl child or any woman in their family.

In many families, the limited resources available to pay for medical treatment are spent on the men of the household rather than the women. They discourage women members from seeking advice from the doctors. Women are taught to be patient and shy. They are told to endure pains and sickness. This leads to serious consequences as the maladies complicate to a stage where they are difficult to be cured.

Societal norms of the rural society also play a big role in aggravating the unfortunate phenomenon. The social stigma attached to the illness of the women, the superstitious beliefs of previous births, the ignorance about health problems, and the bias against women lead to serious health ignorance in the rural women.

Women in a society are deplored for being sick and they go on with their household works without even getting a proper rest. They are deprived of a professional medical advice at crucial stages of their life. Many births still take place in the homes in rural areas. The presence of female multipurpose health workers in the PHCs becomes futile in the absence of a specialist doctor.

Most of the delivery cases, which could easily be handled in Primary Health Centres or in Sub district Hospitals, are referred to LD hospital in Srinagar. This results in a huge rush of patients in the hospital, which in turn affects the patient care. In this super speciality maternity hospital, one bed is occupied by three patients at times and a huge rush of attendants along with the patients affects the smooth functioning of the hospital.

To worsen the woeful condition of the female healthcare of the Valley, the steps taken by the government for the upliftment of the women are nowhere in place. Government and other NGOs have literally failed to improve the gender health scenario in the state, particularly in the rural areas of Kashmir Valley. The woeful health condition of the rural women explicitly shows the miserable failure of the government and other concerned agencies in improving the health standards of women.

Health awareness programs are rarely seen where they ought to be, workshops and other health education programs are hardly held in these far off villages. The efforts made by the government in uplifting the health condition of the rural women and making them realise the importance of a good health are negligible.

Efforts in making the primary health centres, sub-district hospitals and also hospitals in the rural areas competent to deal with the patients are not enough. There is a lot that still needs to be done on this front.

Health of women is important in any society, given the mighty role they play in the continuation of the life. Women and girls are often physically more susceptible to illness than men owing to their sexual and reproductive role. Limited access to health services can lead to problems being left untreated; especially for pregnant women.

So, tremendous efforts need to be made in uplifting the health condition of women. The efforts in Kashmir valley in particular need to be stronger and more effective in the context of conflict that renders most of the efforts ineffective. The psychological conditions of the women need to be addressed along with the physical health problems.

Given the seriousness of the issue, strong and immediate efforts need to be in place to improve the gender health scenario in the Valley. The primary step to be taken in this regard is to uplift the social status of the women in the rural areas. Workshops and awareness programs need to be organised in the areas with the aim of abolishing the conservative view towards women.

After this, efforts have to be made to improve the health awareness among the rural people. Introducing gender health education in the schools at primary level is the crucial need of the hour. Making the people realise the importance of the health of women and the consequences of their ill health on their children, their family and the whole society, should be the prime concern of the agencies.

The infrastructure of the PHCs and other health centres of the rural areas should be improved and the presence of specialist doctors ensured. Government must make speedy and effective policies to ensure the steps are taken in the right direction.

For the overall development of the society, health of women should be our top priority. The improvement in the gender health scenario of our valley will be the real big step towards our development




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