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‘SEHAT’ and non-COVID healthcare

Healthcare in Kashmir has been dealing with a formidable challenge in the shape of COVID-19 since March this year. Doctors, nurses, and other paramedical staff have been totally overwhelmed by the flood of coronavirus cases, the number of which have crossed 1.20 lakh, an unimaginable figure once. While there is a considerable dip in daily reported cases and deaths now, the fallout of the strenuous pandemic wave and the pressure it put on the healthcare system in the valley has substantially impacted the treatment schedule of other illnesses. Non-Covid treatment has been severely affected in Jammu and Kashmir as patients suffering from illnesses, many of them terminal, were compelled to move to private hospitals for surgeries and other medical procedures they were expecting to get at the public tertiary care hospitals. Also, the apprehension of contracting the infection kept many non-Covid patients away from seeking healthcare. The situation may have improved a bit but reports from the ground show such patients are still impacted by Covid-19 scourge. Like Kashmir, the issue was witnessed in almost every part of the globe. Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted a key informant survey among ministry of health officials in five WHO regions between May and July 2020 to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on up to 25 essential health services in countries. According to the final survey report released by WHO, a copy of which was accessed by The Kashmir Monitor, questionnaires were sent to 159 countries and 105 responses were received (66% response rate). 80% of the 105 responding countries had established packages of essential health services prior to the pandemic and 66% of these countries had already identified a core set of services to be maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, disruptions of essential health services were reported by nearly all countries, and more so in lower-income than higher-income countries. The great majority of service disruptions were partial, which was defined as a change of 5–50% in service provision or use. Severe/complete disruptions were defined as a change of more than 50% in service provision or use. As already mentioned, while the challenge has been mitigated to some extent, the tertiary care hospitals in Kashmir are still carrying a backlog of some essential non-Covid treatments which were otherwise slated to take place months ago. Amid all this, the launch of Centre’s flagship Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) SEHAT scheme for all resident of Jammu and Kashmir by PM Narendra Modi last week has come as a sigh of relief for such patients who were concerned about their treatments and the huge cost the same incurred if they were to be carried out in private hospitals. Jammu and Kashmir has become only the second state/ union territory after Maharashtra to provide free and cashless health insurance cover to the entire population and remit annual premium from its own kitty. The scheme now allows cashless treatment in over 229 hospitals in J&K including 35 private ones as well. One expects the administration to assist more and more people in the valley get enrolled in the scheme and help them avail the benefits so that no more patients, suffering from Covid or Non-Covid health complications, are found wanting for lack of medical care.