JK Hospital's Top Tertiary Care Facility Faces Crisis

JK Hospital’s Top Tertiary Care Facility Faces Crisis as Human Resources Diminish

Critical Staff Shortages at JK Hospital SKIMS Threaten Academic Programs and Patient Care
First Published: Dec 31,2023 05:12PM
by Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JK Hospital | SKIMS

JK Hospital | SKIMS
Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Jammu and Kashmir | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

Jammu and Kashmir’s top tertiary care hospital and a deemed university since 1983, Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), is facing the worst human resource deficit in its history, leading to the disruption of patient care services and running a risk of losing recognition for its postgraduate and post-doctoral programs.

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While the JK hospital’s bed strength has been raised from 250 beds in 1982 to 1,250 in 2023, the staff strength has nosedived from 5,000 to just 2,000 in the last 40 years.

In July this year, a delegation of the Union Territory’s political leaders, headed by the former Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah, complained to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha that the JK hospital had reached the verge of its death as the recruitment of fresh staff had remained virtually frozen for the last seven years. Yet, no replenishment of human resources has been forthcoming.

In a significant administrative development—for the first time in over 40 years—the UT Government has divested the SKIMS of its statutory autonomy and made its decisions subject to common bureaucratic processing. In a related development in July 2023, the government transferred the hospital’s powers of selecting gazetted and non-gazetted staff, respectively, to the Jammu & Kashmir Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Subordinate Services Selection Board (SSB).

“We have referred all gazetted vacancies to the PSC and all non-gazetted vacancies to the SSB. Now the ball is in their court,” Dr. Farooq Jan, Medical Superintendent at the SKIMS, told The Probe. According to him, no regular recruitment of staff has taken place in the current year.

“We are facing the worst shortfall of nursing staff and technicians. For a temporary academic arrangement of six months, we had advertised 112 vacancies for nursing staff. Only 80 of the selected candidates joined. Now we want to operate the waiting list, but we are told that the government has already abrogated the conventional system of keeping the waiting lists operative for one year,” the MS at the JK hospital added.

Officials in both J&K PSC and SSB maintained on 28 December 2023 that no indent of vacancies had been received from the SKIMS. “Until today, we have not received any indent of vacancies from the SKIMS. Maybe they have submitted the same to the Administrative Department of Health and Medical Education, which may later be referred to the PSC. We will not delay it for a day. We will notify all vacancies within 48 hours of our receipt,” said Bashir Ahmad Dar, Secretary of J&K PSC.

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Secretary of Health & Medical Education Bhupinder Kumar told The Probe that he would share the progress on this issue in a day or two as he was currently on tour in Jammu’s Rajouri district, where internet services had been suspended. This story will be updated with his inputs as and when available.

“There has been virtually no recruitment in the last 5-6 years. Almost all of our services and academic programs are suffering as a large number of our employees have retired in the same period. A number of our doctors and other staff have resigned. Some of them have opened private clinics, while some have joined private hospitals like Paras and Ujala in Srinagar,” said an officer in the hospital administration.

According to him, 40-50% of posts were vacant, and the situation would soon worsen further. Many services would be affected in the next year. He revealed that 10-15% of the SKIMS existing staff was due to reach superannuation in 2024. “As against our current requirement of a minimum of 6,000 employees, we will be left with just 1,800-2,000 by the end of the next year if no replenishment for the retiring staff comes in,” he added.

A committee constituted vide Order No: SIMS/27 (P) of 2023, dated 23-02-2023, has reported that the JK hospital had a total of 250 beds with a staff strength of 5,000 employees in 1982-83. In 2022-23, SKIMS bed strength increased to 1,250, but the human resource depleted to just 2,000 employees.

Of the 42 functional clinical departments, just 12 have 50% or more of the faculty staff. As many as 19 departments are left with less than 50% of the sanctioned strength of the faculty positions. Only two departments have the full sanctioned strength of staff, while 40 departments are deficient.

Due to the non-availability of competent and qualified guides, a large number of the PG and post-doctoral research programs are in danger of losing NMC recognition. Dozens of candidates pursuing these programs are running the risk of losing their guides in 2024-25.

The acute manpower depletion is affecting performance in almost all clinical, administrative, engineering, and service departments. It takes weeks, months, sometimes years, to process, make, and implement normal decisions. Correspondence on crucial matters takes a long time, occasionally causing distress to affected employees and service providers. Insiders revealed to The Probe that the hospital’s only CT scan unit had been non-functional for want of some repairs since August 2023.

In the Nursing cadre, the only sanctioned post of Nursing Superintendent, as well as the only sanctioned post of the Joint Nursing Superintendent, are vacant.

According to official data from May 2023, all four sanctioned posts of Deputy Nursing Superintendent and all 17 sanctioned posts of Assistant Nursing Superintendent were vacant. Of the 48 sanctioned posts of Nursing Supervisor, only 6 incumbents were in place, and 42 posts were vacant. Of the 260 sanctioned posts of Senior Staff Nurses, only 49 were working, and 211 were vacant. Some more incumbents have retired in the last 5-6 months.

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According to the information provided to one Mohammad Aslam Ganie by the Public Information Officer of the JK hospital on 22-05-2023 and 30-05-2023, as many as 113 faculty positions are lying vacant.

The total sanctioned strength of faculty members [Professors/Additional Professors/Associate Professors/Assistant Professors] on 30-04-2023 was 290. While 177 incumbents were working, 113 positions were unmanned. This cumulative heap of vacancies, coupled with the continuing superannuation of professors, has cast shadows of uncertainty on the post-doctoral courses of dozens of students who are losing guides.

Against the sanctioned strength of 7 faculty members, the Department of Clinical Biochemistry has only one incumbent in place. Six faculty positions are lying vacant. Similarly, the Department of Emergency Medicine has only one incumbent in place, and five faculty positions are lying vacant there.

The Department of Pulmonary Medicine has a sanctioned strength of four faculty members. Only one is available. Three faculty positions are lying vacant. Even the only working faculty member, Prof. Sanaullah Shah, has recently taken voluntary retirement.

The Department of Surgical Oncology has three faculty members in place, but three positions are lying vacant. Two of the three working faculty members have submitted their resignations.

The Department of Rheumatology has a sanctioned strength of four faculty members. One is in place, and three posts are lying vacant. The only working faculty member, Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Sofi, is retiring in 2024.

The Department of Radiology Physics and Bio-engineering has a sanctioned strength of five faculty positions. Two are working, and three posts are lying vacant.

The Department of Nuclear Medicine at SKIMS has a sanctioned strength of seven faculty positions. Here, only one is working, and six posts are lying vacant.

The Department of Surgical Gastroenterology has three incumbents working against a sanctioned strength of seven. Four positions are lying vacant.

Against the sanctioned strength of seven faculty positions, the Department of Physical Medicine has one incumbent in place, and six posts are lying vacant.

The Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (CVTS) has a sanctioned strength of seven faculty positions. Three are in place, and four are vacant. Five senior faculty members have retired in CVTS without replacement. The only available professor, Dr. Abdul Majid Dar, is retiring in 2024.

The Department of Geriatric Medicine has a sanctioned strength of two faculty positions. One is available, and one is vacant.

The Department of Blood Transfusion also has only one faculty member available against the sanctioned strength of four. Three positions are lying vacant.

The Department of Neurology has a sanctioned strength of seven faculty positions. Three are in place, and four are lying vacant.

The Department of Medical Oncology has only four incumbents available against the sanctioned strength of eight. Here too, four faculty positions are lying vacant.

The Department of Microbiology has a sanctioned strength of six faculty positions. Four are functioning, and two are lying vacant.

One qualified Assistant Professor/Associate Professor, as per NMC guidelines, can be the guide for only one candidate in a year. One qualified Additional Professor/Professor, as per NMC guidelines, can be the guide for two candidates in a year. The 113 faculty vacancies at the JK hospital means the denial of the right to higher studies/super speciality for 150-200 candidates.

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Ahmed Ali Fayyaz is an independent journalist based out of Jammu & Kashmir. With 27 years of experience, Fayyaz is a policy analyst and a political commentator. He has extensively reported on conflict – after the 1990 Kashmir conflict – for the national and international media.

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