Kashmir clampdown: Government urged to allow patients to access healthcare

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] group of 18 doctors have asked the central government to ease restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir besides taking all the required measures to ensure that patients have access to healthcare services without any hindrance.

The letter that appeared in the medical journal BMJ on August 16 has been jointly written by Dr. Ramani Atkuri, a public health physician in Madhya Pradesh and 17 others.

Since the scrapping of state’s special status and its bifurcation into two Union Territories on August 5, Kashmir valley, several parts of Jammu region and Kargil district in Leh have been witnessing an unprecedented government clampdown and information blockade.

“The current situation in Jammu and Kashmir is leading to a violation of the right to life and to health care,” the letter noted.

The letter read that “people are unable to call an ambulance to take a sick person to hospital” forcing them to take the sick person in a “private vehicle”.

“These vehicles (private vehicles) are stopped every few metres by security forces standing at concertina wire barricades to check identity and ask questions”.

Raising concern over use of pellet guns by the security forces, the letter further said: “Several patients have been admitted with pellet gun injuries, and some have been seriously injured. Only those who can make it to a hospital can get some care.”

“Though hospitals are generally stocked with supplies, staff  have found it difficult to reach the hospital. Hospitals that are usually overcrowded are largely empty now. Some doctors worry about their patients on dialysis as only a few patients requiring dialysis from Srinagar have been able to come for treatment, while those living outside have not been able to reach the hospital,” it said.

It added, “Certain medications are out of stock in the local stores and there is at least one report of a person having to fly to New Delhi to purchase medicines for a sick relative. There are reports of other patients who have not been able to reach the hospital in time for their scheduled cycle of chemotherapy.”

It also talked about psychological stress that people have been subjected to in the wake of restrictions. “Some women due to deliver were moved closer to a hospital when the troop build up began as they anticipated some trouble. There are likely to be many more women who are not able to get to a hospital for their delivery, or have got there very late,” the letter mentioned.

“In the current situation, there is a blatant denial of the right to health care and the right to life,” the letter stated, urging central government to ease restrictions on communication and travel at the earliest.

The entire text of the letter can be read here: Concern regarding access to health care in Jammu and Kashmir