‘No facilities for cancer patients at SKIMS with zero accountability of funds’

SRINAGAR: As Jammu and Kashmir reports over 7000 cases of cancer annually, administrators at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar, have miserably failed to install various cancer treatment facilities at the Institute. Courtesy: Zero accountability.

A member of the State Advisory Committee of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for two years has strong reasons to believe that funds worth hundreds of crore rupees, provided by the Government of India and of Jammu and Kashmir for creating various facilities, particularly facilities for cancer treatment at SKIMS in the last five years, have been either swindled by the authorities or left un-utilized as there was zero accountability among the administrators of this super specialty hospital in Jammu and Kashmir.

“CAG pointed out that the officials failed to create the Cancer Treatment Centre despite having the funds available for it from the Centre. Surprisingly, money provided for treatment of poor patients was spent on the treatment of a Chief Secretary’s mother-in-law,” CNS quoted the member, wishing not to be named, as having said.

“Linear Accelerator, which according to technical experts, would have cost Rs 10 crore rupees was procured for Rs 15 to 18 crore. Some say Rs 20 crore have been claimed on account of its acquisition. After installation, experts found it substandard and it has been reportedly dysfunctional for a few years now,” the member said. “Similarly, for last several years we have been hearing about PET SCAN being installed at SKIMS. No such facility exists there today.”

“More surprisingly, neither of the two Chief Ministers, Omar Abdullah and late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, took cognizance of the extremely serious complaints and allegations of brazen loot of public money, maladministration and lack of accountability in the SKIMS,” he said. “Even the Assembly’s House Committee probe was bungled as the members were allegedly roped in for different considerations. A doctor, who under rules has retired about two years back, is still functioning as the topmost administrator of SKIMS apparently due to his linkage to the important people in political parties, bureaucracy, media, judiciary and other institutions.”

“It is high time that, before the political patrons of the SKIMS take over, Governor Vohra should order a CBI inquiry into the loot of public money and failure of the administrators in installation of various cancer treatment facilities at SKIMS,” the member said.

“High Court should also take cognizance and look into reasons why the Linear Accelerator-an equipment cardinal in radiation therapy and PET SCAN are not still functional at SKIMS,” he added.

A leading oncologist told CNS, on condition of anonymity, that it was near to impossible to treat cancer patients in absence of needed facilities. “There is a desperate need for radiotherapy plants and departments of medical and surgical oncology. Whooping sums of money was provided by both State and Union Government but nobody knows how those funds were utilized,” he said and admitted that ‘zero accountability’ in SKIMS had made matters worse.

“Linear accelerator, PET-CT Scan – basic equipment for detection of malignancies, mammography facility used for detection of breast cancer and cyclotron particle accelerator (proton therapy equipment for cancer treatment) are reportedly not available in the hospital,” he said.

As a result, patients have to go outside the state for mere diagnosis of cancer.
For mammography too, which is nothing more than a low-voltage X-ray, patients are forced to approach a private laboratory. If SKIMS administrators at present claim that Union Government has stopped funding the Institute, what happened to the funds that were allocated for the Institute earlier,” said a medico.

“It is high time an inquiry be initiated to ascertain the facts about the procurement and utilization of funds in this ‘reputed’ Institute,” a reputed surgeon said.