Private Practice, No Sin!

Don’t treat doctors like ‘bonded laborers’

Javaid Malik
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 19 2018 11:00PM | Updated Date: Jan 19 2018 11:00PM
Private Practice, No Sin!File Photo

A sting operation carried out by a news channel created ripples in the medical fraternity in the state as three Heads of Departments of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) were caught on camera doing private practice.

No stone was left unturned to project them as “criminals” and as “enemies” of the people.  Everyone raised hue and cry and tried to blow the issue out of proportion. None of us realized that they are specialist doctors who have become specialists after putting in lot of hard work. 

It was really disgusting to note that after the sting operation was aired many people were eagerly waiting for the government to act. They remained active till their suspension orders were issued and the story ended soon after that.

Those who oppose the private practice of the doctors seem to be unaware of the fact that Kashmir faces dearth of specialist doctors and common people have to run from pillar to post to get a consultation from a doctor of their choice. Mostly VIPs oppose the private practice as they are unaware about the ground realities. Whenever any VIP visits a government hospital he is provided all the facilities and specialist doctors remain on toes to ensure that VIPs don’t get annoyed. On the contrary when a poor patient visits the hospital he has to wait for hours together for his turn. He or she rarely finds a specialist available in the Out Patient Department for consultation. Many patients visit other states to get the consultation from a specialist doctor.  To get a simple consultation they have to pay through their nose and have to spend hefty amounts on their travel and accommodation. 

The three doctors who were demonized by the media were providing specialist consultation to the people at a very low cost. Their consultation fee was between Rs 200 / to Rs 300/. It’s not a very big amount.  Patients who visit other states for consultation have to pay anything between Rs 1500/ to Rs 2000/ for the same medical advice.  

 Entire media highlighted that they were doing private practice without realizing that even in their spare time they (doctors) were serving people and treating their ailments. But media projected them as “extortionists.”  What a pity!

They are the same doctors who treated us when hospitals were filled with patients who had received pellet ad bullet injuries. They are the same people who worked 24x7 to ensure that human lives are saved. They deserve respect and honour not brickbats. Kashmir is a strange place. People derive sadistic pleasure by seeing others in trouble. We need to change our pessimistic approach.   

We are the same people who used to visit their residences to seek consultation and when they were caught we turned our back towards them without realizing that we are the ones who knocked at their doors. They didn’t to come to us. We went to them. 

Soon after the sting operation was aired the Jammu and Kashmir government without giving these doctors a chance to explain sacked them and deprived Kashmir’s only tertiary care health institute of top three specialist doctors.

People who go by rule books are claiming that they (doctors) should not have indulged in the private practice as they get Non Practicing Allowance. For them they are guilty. Someone needs to ask them how many people in J&K follow the rules? The lawmakers, who draw huge salaries and get other facilities keep on hogging the headlines for one or other wrong reason. How many times have they been sacked or punished? Why only lawmakers, there are grave allegations of corruption against the bureaucrats and the top people who run the system. Many people against whom Vigilance cases are registered are heading the key departments. Why no action has been taken against them? What happened to the much hyped drive against the corruption which was started to identify the deadwood and nail the corrupt officers?  

The people at the helm should understand that there are only a few hospitals in Kashmir and to meet a specialist in the government run hospital is a Herculean task. By banning the private practice of doctors the government is depriving its own people from getting a proper medical advice. The doctors at SKIMS who want to do private practice should surrender their Non Practicing Allowance.

During the past few years many outside hospitals have set up their consultation centers in Srinagar. They send doctors to Kashmir every week. These doctors charge hefty consultation  fee and persuade the patients to visit their hospitals where they (patients) have to spend huge amounts even for small procedures.  

People who claim that doctors should not be allowed to do private practice should bear in mind that health sector in J&K is under developed. They need to stop comparing J&K with America and England. J&K still has got a long way to go. 

The three SKIMS doctors “punished” by the J&K government are professionals. If the people at the helm keep them attached they can easily shift their base from Kashmir and work anywhere. If they say goodbye to Kashmir it would be a big loss for people. The state government should reconsider its decision on private practice and allow doctors to live a free life. To begin with Non Practicing Allowance should be scrapped and doctors should be allowed to utilize their free time as per their own wish and will. Let’s not treat them like “bonded labourers” and “slaves.” 

(Javaid Malik is Senior Editor Greater Kashmir.)           


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