While the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the loopholes in the healthcare systems globally, J&K worked tirelessly to revamp its health infra and deliver world-class care. With an investment of Rs 7,177 crores, the J&K administration set up 2 new AIIMS, 10 new nursing colleges, 2 state cancer institutes, 7 new medical colleges, and 5 nursing colleges were upgraded. J&K has one of the highest budget allocations for health in India, which proves its priority. But that barely scratches the surface of the administration's efforts toward developing the UT's health infrastructure.

The J&K government has reserved Rs 881 crore for the upgradation of district infrastructure. Having completed 108 projects, 32 more are to be completed in 2022-23. Jammu and Kashmir is spending 2.86 per cent of its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) on healthcare which is the highest by any state or UT in the country. These statistics show that healthcare is one aggressively pursued priority of the government.

First batch of AIIMS Jammu from June 1, OPD to start immediately

Standing up to the extreme challenges

J&K set an example by tackling the COVID-19 pandemic with innate efficiency. It led in the vaccination drive by achieving 100 percent inoculation for 18 years and above with both doses and 100 percent coverage for population of age group 15 -18 years of age with the first dose.

To address the shortage of doctors, 500 additional MBBS seats have been added this year and their number has now been doubled in government medical colleges out of which 85 seats are reserved for financially weaker sections.

To overcome the shortage of PG doctors and prepare specialists at that level, the health department has started diploma of national board courses in new and old medical colleges. On the upgradation of health infrastructure, new medical colleges have been upgraded by attaching them to district hospitals which are being equipped with all facilities. All present 300-bedded hospitals will be upgraded to 500 beds.

Jammu 500-bedded hospital
Jammu and kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha inaugurated a 500-bedded covid ward in Jammu hospitalPress handout

This year, two new 500-bedded COVID hospitals have been set up, in Jammu and Valley, for which 1,366 new recruitments of doctors, nurses, paramedics, technical staff etc have been made. The result of all these giant strides has been that the Neonatal mortality rate has come down from 23 per cent to 13.3 per 1000 in the last 3 years. The infant mortality rate has fallen from 32.4 to 16.3 per 1,000 during this period.

Ambitious goals, completion in sight

The PM Cares benefits were extended to the people of J&K, including Rs 10 lakh corpus for a child orphaned due to COVID, sanctioning 418 pension cases and 414 scholarships, health insurance of Rs 5 lakh under the Ayushman Bharat scheme and SASCM benefits for the masses. PMJAY-SEHAT launched by the Prime Minister is covering 100% population without discrimination.

The J&K health scheme was rolled out to provide free of cost universal health coverage up to Rs 5 lakhs per household per year to all the residents of J&K. Oxygen generation capacity in hospitals has been increased from 14916 LMP to 120291 LMP.

Lieutanant Governor of J&K Manoj Sinha discussing COVID prepardness with Army commanders
Lieutanant Governor of J&K Manoj Sinha discussing COVID prepardness with Army commanderssocial media

In addition to this, World Bank assistance of Rs 367 crore to improve healthcare institutions was also received.

There is an ambitious proposal to set up two medicities in Jammu and Srinagar. Towards the realisation of this objective, Global investment proposals worth Rs 3225-3325 crore in health care and medical education have been received.

"Virinchi healthcare Private Limited proposal of Rs 200 crore for 500 bedded hospital, another proposal worth Rs 2,200 crore from HP Kapital limited for setting up Hitech medical university with 350 bedded hospital and 700 bedded student accommodation, one each in Jammu division and the Valley with employment generation for 6,000 people, are some of the proposals on which final decision is being taken," said senior officials in the health and medical education department.

The face of healthcare is changing fast. It might not be an exaggeration to say that in a couple of years J&K would become one of the most sought-after affordable healthcare destinations in the country.