After the Lancet’s publication, it is now the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which has drawn the attention of the medical fraternity in the country – a letter was recently published in the journal where doctors stated that the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir is preventing people from accessing healthcare. The letter was written by 18 doctors across the country expressing their concerns regarding the plight of those unable to access the required healthcare.
“The lockdown and snapping of all modes of communication has made it very difficult for people in the Kashmir valley to access healthcare. From various news reports that are available from Srinagar the capital city, the picture that emerges is grim. People are unable to call an ambulance to take a sick person to hospital – they need to be taken a private vehicle if they have access to one. These vehicles are stopped every few metres by security forces standing at concertina wire barricades to check identity and ask questions,” states the letter, which was published on August 16.
The doctors have also stated that they are worried about patients who require dialysis and chemotherapy but have been unable to make it to the hospital for their appointments. In addition, there have also been several accounts of pregnant women being unable to reach the hospital for their deliveries, which the doctors have highlighted in their letter as well.
“The situation has also led to a lot of mental stress among a population already living with high levels of psychosocial stress. Some women due to deliver were moved closer to a hospital when the troop buildup 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,” write the doctors.
The letter was coordinated by Dr Ramani V Atkuri, a public health consultant from Madhya Pradesh. The others who signed were Ashok S, Babde S, Biswas T, Chatterjee M, Choudhrie R, D'Souza R, Goel G, Gore A, Jain Y, Jesani A, Joseph N, Karpagam S, Mohan P, Noronha M, Prabir KC, Sequeira R, Tambat S, and Zachariah A.
In light of the recent blackout, the organisation Médecins Sans Frontier (Doctors Without Borders) too had to halt its activities in the region.
“The complete communications blackout and severe restrictions on movement have led us to halt our mental health project activities in Kashmir for now. We have had limited contact with our staff, which has prevented us from gathering information about the medical needs of the population on the ground,” reads a statement by the organisation.
Earlier, the Lancet journal had published an article titled 'Fear and uncertainty around Kashmir's future', voicing its concerns over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. This was met with scrutiny from the Indian Medical Association, which stated that the journal had "committed breach of propriety in commenting on India’s political issue."