International media reports chaos and crisis in Kashmir hospitals after month-long lockdown

International media reports chaos and crisis in Kashmir hospitals after month-long lockdown
The military lockdown and communications blackout imposed by the Indian government following the revocation of the region's autonomy last month has crippled life in the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, reported Al Jazeera.

Courtesy: Al Jazeera

The unprecedented siege, which entered its second month, has severely affected patients in need of urgent medical attention and better facilities.

Patients are scrambling for medicines, doctors are unable to work due to blackout and hospitals are running out of resources.

For the past two weeks, Mohamad Shafi has been at the bedside of his 13-year-old son Rafi, who has been admitted to the nephrology ward of a state-run hospital in Indian-administered Kashmir's main city of Srinagar.

Rafi suffers from a chronic kidney ailment and needs dialysis every 15 days, a medical procedure that cannot be done at his village in Tangdar area of Kupwara, a frontier district some 100 kilometres northwest of Srinagar.

"We can't go anywhere for now. My son needs medical care which isn't available in Tangdar. So we are planning to stay at the hospital until the situation improves," Shafi told Al Jazeera.

On the nights of August 20 and 21, Shafi took his ailing son to the hospital. He said he was stopped at multiple security checkpoints set up by the Indian security forces along the way.

Shafi said that dialysis for his son costs 2,800 rupees ($25) each time. While the government-run hospital treats patients at a subsidised price, it does not provide the medicine required for this procedure.

Patients are supposed to buy the medicine needed for dialysis from outside the hospital. Amid the lockdown, the medicine is not always available at the nearby pharmacies.

A medical staff member at SKIMS hospital, who did not want to be identified, told Al Jazeera that many patients at the hospital have run out of money to buy the critical medicines."We don't provide them any medicines. They have to buy them from retail stores outside the hospital and many of them come from far-flung areas.”

At the Sri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar, Surendar Prasad Goyal and his daughter, Priya, who are from Chhattisgarh state in central India, wait anxiously outside the operation theatre.

Earlier this week, Goyal's 16-month-old grandson Lucky suffered a serious accident at the brick kiln he and his daughter worked at in Anantnag district of Kashmir.

While doctors carried out surgery on Lucky immediately after he was admitted, he is still not stable.

Goyal said he was able to reach Srinagar by ambulance at the district hospital in Anantnag. While he had the money he needed for the surgery, he is not sure how long will it last.

Mumtaza Dar from Beeru village in Budgam district was scheduled to undergo surgery at the SMHS hospital on August 10, but she could not make it to the hospital due to the restrictions placed by the Indian authorities.

Forced to delay her medical needs, the chronic piles patient bled for weeks. As her condition at home worsened, her family hired a vehicle to take her to Srinagar last weekend.

"They should have at least kept the communication lines open. If we run out of money or there is a problem with a patient here, there is no way we can reach out to our family and friends for help," a patient said.

A doctor at the SMHS hospital, who did not want to be named, said the inflow of patients had dipped by less than half as people were delaying going to the hospital because of the uncertainty over the lockdown.

"We only provide medicines to the patients, who are in the emergency. Others have to purchase them from medical stores outside the hospital," he said.

The doctor also told Al Jazeera that at least 60 victims of pellet gun attacks had been treated at his hospital in the last month. The communications blackout has forced the doctors to improvise in order to carry on their work.

At Lal Ded, one of the biggest maternity hospitals in Indian-administered Kashmir, a megaphone is mounted at the top of the building to call out for the doctors whenever a patient needs them. In case they are not able to hear the calls, a staff member at the hospital is asked to go to every ward to look for them.

Rashid, who has been at the hospital for the last 15 years, said he had not seen such a situation in Kashmir before.