New Children hospital in limbo, govt announces expansion of GB Pant hospital


The recent statement by Jammu and Kashmir health minister regarding expansion of GB Pant Children hospital has drawn flak over government’s lack of vision towards upgrading of limited pediatric healthcare facilities for 30 lakh children in Kashmir.
Last week, during a visit to GB Pant pediatric hospital, minister of health and medical education, Bali Bhagat announced that 10 kanals of custodian land adjacent to the hospital would be used to construct an additional block for the hospital and expand its capacity. “Divisional Commissioner Kashmir has already been directed to take measures to transfer the 10 kanals of custodian land near the hospital for the construction of an additional block,” he said.
Later, he wrote in a Facebook post, “Yes, it (GB Pant Hospital) is overcrowded…but we are working to upgrade it.”
The statements of health minister have come at a time when the GoI funded building at Bemina, meant to cater as Children hospital, has landed a rough patch due to delays in completion of civil and mechanical works. Government has also failed to clear ambiguity surrounding the bed capacity for pediatrics at the upcoming hospital building.
Senior faculty members and administrators at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar said that the indecisiveness and “plans that change every year” were proving detrimental to pediatric healthcare facilities in Kashmir.
“For a decade, not just have successive governments failed to construct a children hospital for the lakhs of children in Kashmir, but not consensus over its location has been achieved,” said a senior academician at GMC Srinagar. He called the “wavering decisions” regarding setting up of children hospital a “criminal act” towards the pediatric population of Kashmir. “Government needs to answer the people of Kashmir as to why, for over a decade, they have failed to ensure a proper children hospital,” he said.
In 2015, a decade after pediatric hospital was shifted from Hazuri Bagh to GB Pant Hospital in Sonwar as an interim arrangement, state government had announced that the pediatric healthcare facilities in Kashmir would be expanded and two floors over the upcoming maternity hospital at Bemina would be allocated for pediatrics. Later, it was announced that the maternity hospital space will be utilized entirely as pediatric hospital and the sanction for the same would be sought from union ministry of health and family welfare.
Currently, the GB Pant Hospital has 150 beds, crammed in small wards of the hospital. “The beds are inadequate to cater to the patient load and often we are forced to admit two or three children on a single bed,” a doctor at the hospital said. Due to lack of space, specialist facilities like pediatric surgery, pediatric ophthalmology, and other departments function have taken a hit, affecting the overall health of children here.
Kashmir has an estimated 30 lakh children, while GB Pant Hospital is the only pediatric hospital catering to entire Kashmir and Doda, Rajouri, Kargil and Leh.
July 2012: A government panel recommended that the new Pediatric Hospital be set up in  Bemina. Land was earmarked, proposal submitted.
Oct 2014: Omar Abdullah government approved “construction of pediatric hospital at Dewan Bagh Srinagar.”
Aug 2015: Mufti Sayeed government approved “construction of a 200-bedded Pediatric  Hospital within the upcoming Maternity Hospital at Bemina.”
Sept 2015: Health minister Lal Singh said, “Maternity facilities in Kashmir adequate. Will put in  personal efforts and use entire 500 beds of under-construction hospital at Bemina for pediatrics.”
Dec 2017: Health minister Bali Bhagat said, “GB Pant Hospital will be expanded, and a new block added to it.”

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