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MUZAFFARABAD: Responding to an urgent need of the civilian population of Leepa valley, the army has been airlifting leading gynaecologists and their allied staff from Muzaffarabad to the snowbound area on rotation.

Residents and official sources told Dawn that the decision was taken by Maj-Gen Amer Ahsan Nawaz, the general officer commanding (GOC) of the Murree-based 12 Division, after receiving reports that women patients were suffering in Leepa valley in the absence of any female doctor after the onset of the winter season.

The picturesque valley is located about 100 kms southeast of Muzaffarabad and is overlooked by Indian army posts across the Line of Control from almost one end to the other from where ceasefire violations are being committed frequently since the recent past.

From beyond Reshian village, the valley is accessed by two dangerously narrow roads and one pedestrian track that run through an altitude of around 10,000 feet.

However, as heavy snowfalls block all three routes, virtually cutting off the valley from the rest of the territory, residents have to wend their way through the snow-capped corridors at the peril of their lives.

While male patients were able to get themselves examined by male doctors at army’s Field Trauma Centre (FTC), women could not avail themselves of such a facility due to the unavailability of female doctor(s) both at the FTC and the civilian manned Rural Health Centre (RHC).

Keeping the situation in view, the GOC offered to the AJK health department that he could arrange gynaecologists and their support staff and airlift them from Muzaffarabad to the valley in army choppers on a week-long rotation.

Sources said Prof Dr Noshina Shabbir, head of the gynaecology department at Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan Hospital Muzaffarabad, was attending to female patients in the valley for the last a few days. And prior to her, Dr Rabia and Dr Zubina, gynaecologists at the same hospital, had carried out similar job for one week each in rotation.

“No doubt, the female patients critically suffer there during the harsh winter season. Many of them even lose their battle with ailments when their families are unable to transport them to a tertiary or secondary care hospital beyond the snow covered mountains,” Dr Zubina told Dawn.

She said she had conducted two operations there apart from treating and attending dozens of other female patients.

It may be mentioned that a major general of the army medical corps serves as secretary health in AJK while the director general health department is a civilian official.

When contacted, Maj-Gen Malik Mohammad Masood, the secretary health, confirmed that the step had been taken in realisation of the problems of female patients in the snowbound valley.

“We have prepared a rotation chart… And this process will continue till the snow melts and residents are able to travel out of their valley by road,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2019