A week after the Indian Medical Association had sent out a letter to medical journal ‘Lancet’ for breach in propriety commenting on the political issue of Kashmir in its August 17 issue, a group of doctors have raised concerns over public health and healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir.
In a letter, the group of 20 doctors, who expressed their concerns about difficulty in communication following the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370, has said that the people there have found it difficult to access basic healthcare and emergency services, and that the IMA had failed in responding to the situation.
“We request that Indian professional bodies of Medicine, Surgery, Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Paediatrics, Critical Care, Chest medicine, HIV, Tuberculosis, Psychiatry etc. co-ordinate with the government to put together teams of doctors to understand and address current issues in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure that there are no gaps in service provision,” the letter said.
“It is unfortunate that the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has only put out a statement to critique the ‘Lancet’ article instead of putting together a team of doctors, paramedics etc. to address any possible health crisis and make recommendations for preventive, curative and rehabilitative measures,” it added.
The doctors further said that the need of the hour was related to immunisation, chronic diseases, emergency care and care of pregnant women, apart from ensuring availability of ambulance services.
One of the signatories of the letter, Dr Amar Jesani, an independent consultant and researcher, told The Federal, “Even prisoners have basic rights to healthcare, but the people of Kashmir have been denied the same. This is what happens when you do not allow movement and communication and what is of grave concern.”
The Doctors’ Association of Social Equality (DASE) also said that the IMA had become a mouthpiece of the central government and is not looking at the larger healthcare issue in Kashmir.
“Be it the National Medical Commission (NCM) Bill or the National Exit Test, the IMA has failed to oppose them or involve proactively. In the case of Kashmir, the medical fraternity should come together to ensure that healthcare is not denied,” added Dr GR Ravindranath, secretary, DASE.
IMA defends stand
Dr RV Asokan, honorary secretary general, IMA, said that several groups of doctors have expressed their opinions about the ‘Lancet’ editorial and many have also taken individual stands on the issue and the healthcare needs.
However, he added that it was the IMA’s duty to point out Lancet’s overreach.
“Lancet is a medical journal and it should confine itself to medical issues. Under the garb of health issue they have gone ahead with the topic of fear and uncertainty of healthcare in Kashmir and the editorial,” he said.
Further, Dr Asokan said that ‘Lancet’ has no locus standi on the issue. “There is a group called Medical Sans Frontiers that works in several conflict zones and their work is acknowledged and respected because they do not make a political opinion, be it in Sudan or Syria,” he added.