The J&K government has decided to abandon constructing a 500-bedded pediatric hospital in Srinagar and instead construct two floors for children’s healthcare at the new Maternity Hospital in Bemina here.
The decision to shelve the project midway has been taken in a recently-held cabinet meeting, sources said, following which an order has also been issued to this effect.
“Sanction is accorded to the construction of additional two floors over the upcoming Maternity Hospital at Bemina through R&B Department at a cost of Rs 25 crore instead of construction of new separate Pediatric Hospital at Dewan Bagh through JKPCC at the cost of Rs 68.92 crore,” the Order No 338-HME of 2015—copy of which is with us.
This, the order issued in the wake of Cabinet Decision No 92/08/15 dated 19.08.2015, is done to “have pediatric healthcare facilities alongside the Maternity Hospital within the same building/premises.”
The government order runs contrary to the statement by Minister for Health and Medical Education, Choudhary Lal Singh, to this newspaper on August 19th, 2015—when the Cabinet shelved the project—that Pediatric Hospital will be set up in Dewan Bagh only, adjacent to Government Medical College Srinagar.
The work on Maternity Hospital at Bemina was started in 2011, but only four floors have been constructed in the past four years.
Health experts and civil society members Saturday expressed disappointment over the government order cancelling construction of new Pediatric Hospital.
Dr Altaf Hussain, former Head of Pediatrics department in Government Medical College Srinagar, called the cabinet decision a “fraud with people of Kashmir.”
A senior administrator in GMC Srinagar said: “Our facilities for child healthcare are not even bare minimum. With no healthcare institute to cater to the needs of such a huge population, the government is leaving Kashmir’s children to die.”
Chairman Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan, questioned the intentions of the government towards child healthcare in Kashmir. “If AIIMS can be called the ‘need of the hour’ in Jammu, isn’t a pediatric hospital a minimum necessity in Kashmir? Why are our children being treated as lesser humans?” Khan asked.
A lone pediatric hospital (now GB Pant hospital) in Kashmir was relocated from Hazuri Bagh to Sonwar here, but it is facing infrastructural deficiencies.
In 2012, the government led by Omar Abdullah announced that two ‘separate’ hospitals would be constructed in Bemina, but no work was carried out on the Pediatric Hospital. After this, a cabinet meeting in October last year decided that the Pediatric Hospital will be set up in Dewan Bagh area of Karan Nagar, adjacent to Government Medical College Srinagar. But nothing happened on ground.
The bed strength of GB Pant Hospital here is just 90 for a population of over 20 lakh children.
A senior government official said J&K government is facing shortage of funds and that’s why the project has been abandoned. However, no official from Finance Department was available to comment over this claim.
According to a proposal prepared by the Government Medical College, there was an impending and dire need to have a Pediatric Hospital in Kashmir with a bed strength of at least 500, ‘with a provision for expansion’. The proposal has been prepared by taking into consideration the pediatric population in Kashmir and the annual burden of diseases in that age group. According to official estimates, the pediatric population of Kashmir is about 20 lakh.
The proposal justifies the requirement citing ‘as the Children’s Hospital GB pant has already reached its limit in terms of load of patients and number of referrals it can handle, the need for a full fledged tertiary care Children’s Hospital becomes imperative’.