Doctors voice concern over health of patients in Jammu and Kashmir

Published - August 22, 2019 11:20 pm IST - Bengaluru

After a recent editorial on Kashmir in The Lancet and an open letter published in the medical journal BMJ, wherein a group of 18 doctors from across India said that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is preventing people from accessing healthcare, another group of 20 senior doctors have come out with a statement voicing their concern over the plight of those who are unable to access healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Lancet’s editorial stirred up strong sentiments in some sections of India’s medical community and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) raised objection over the political overtones of the piece, written against the backdrop of the revocation of Article 370, which the IMA felt was “out of character” for the medical journal.

20 doctors’ plea

Now, in the recent statement put out on Wednesday, the group of 20 doctors have requested Indian professional bodies of medicine, surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics, paediatrics, critical care, chest medicine, HIV, tuberculosis, and psychiatry, among others, to coordinate with the government in ensuring easy healthcare access to people in Jammu and Kashmir.

These professional bodies should coordinate with the government to put together teams of doctors to understand and address current issues in Jammu and Kashmir and ensure that there are no gaps in service provision, the statement said.

“It is unfortunate that the IMA has only put out a statement to critique The Lancet article instead of putting together a team of doctors and paramedics to address any possible health crisis and make recommendations for preventive, curative, and rehabilitative measures,” said Sylvia Karpagam, public health doctor and researcher from Karnataka, who is one of the signatories.

Public health concerns

“We have listed out the public health concerns in Kashmir. The professional health bodies of India should affirm basic rights of the citizens there to communication and access to all levels of primary, secondary or tertiary healthcare, both private and government. These bodies should demand that the communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir has to be urgently and completely removed. Healthcare personnel, drugs, lab reagents, surgical material, and equipment required for proper function of all levels of healthcare should be ensured. People should not be fearful for life just to access healthcare. Fully equipped and staffed mobile medical units should be made available at frequent intervals, particularly covering hard to reach areas,” she said.

The signatories include Amar Jesani, independent consultant and researcher; David Goldberg, retired psychiatrist, St. George’s Hospital, London; Haneen Bég, Kumudini Women’s Medical College and Hospital, Bangladesh; Jammi N. Rao, visiting professor in Public Health, University of Staffordshire; Veena Shatrugna, former deputy director, National Institute of Nutrition; and Imrana Qadeer, distinguished professor, Council for Social Development.

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