Kashmir’s only psychiatric disease hospital—Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Srinagar is facing manpower shortage despite its upgradation five years ago taking a toll on mental care in the valley.
According to doctors, there are only four permanent faculty members and two others are working on adhoc basis despite receiving huge patient flow from across the Kashmir.
“We lack both doctors and paramedic staff which compromises the care of the mental ill people who come to this facility from far off places,” he said.
The hospital on an average receives 300 patients in its outpatient department at the Department of Psychiatry at SMHS Hospital and 250 patients visit the psychiatric hospital daily.
The six doctors run both IMHANS and psychiatry unit at SMHS hospital on rotation but lack of manpower has hit the recreational services for the mental disorder cases.
Five years ago, the psychiatric hospital was upgraded to the IMHANS with approval for additional capacity of 50 beds. But over the years the authorities at the helm have failed to upgrade its manpower which is overburdening the existing staff.
Authorities at IMHANS said they have repeatedly demanded increase of manpower but the files are gathering dust with the government.
Mental health experts believe that manpower is the vital component for psychiatry care which has faced negligence over the years as ‘authorities did not advertise posts.’
“We not only need psychiatrists but psychologists, clinical psychologists, counselors, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers to treat the patients,” said a senior doctor at Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar.
He said that manpower was more important to provide trained mental health professionals in every district than the infrastructure.
In 2017, more than 50, 000 mental illness cases were registered at the psychiatry disease hospital with official figures suggesting a steep rise in these cases over time.
Figures reveal that the prevalence of mental disorders is on the rise as compared to 2016 when only 40183 psychological disorder cases were registered at the hospital.
As per a survey conducted in 2016 by Médecins Sans Frontières, India (MSF), detailing the burden of psychiatric illnesses in Kashmir, one in every four households in Kashmir had a member who suffered from mental illness.
The survey had stated that 45% adults in Kashmir were experiencing symptoms of mental distress with 41% exhibiting probable depression.
Doctors have also attributed the ongoing sociopolitical disturbances as a major cause which they said has given rise to depression.
“Unemployment, trauma, insecurity, anxiety and stress-related problems are increasing,” said Dr Yasir Hassan Rather, an associate professor at the hospital.
In May this year the Mental Healthcare Act (MHA) 2017 came into force in all states but on the contrary both manpower and infrastructure are waiting for an overhaul here.
Principal GMC, Dr Samia Rashid told Rising Kashmir that they have taken up the matter with the government adding that the manpower issue is under consideration.
“We have many times sent our demand about the shortage of doctors, clinical psychologists and paramedics. The file has also gone to finance department,” she said.
The hospital is the main referral institution for all patients suffering from psychiatric disease and provides to and fro referral services with other associated hospitals of GMC Srinagar.
“We are going to commission well established recreational facilities at IMHANS in near future,” Samia said.