COVID-19: Condition of J&K Hospitals Puts Staff & Patients At Risk
With the incidence of COVID-19 cases spiking in India, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is facing a dire situation as their seven-month-long lockdown – in place even before the coronavirus pandemic – crippled its economy following the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year.
Mobile internet services remain restricted to 2G even after eight positive cases were reported from the Kashmir Valley, with three more on Tuesday, 24 March. With these cases, Kashmir is bracing for the pandemic with even less resources at its disposal than the rest of the country.
On Tuesday, a 22-year-old youth along with two others were reported positive, while on Wednesday, four more cases tested positive, taking Kashmir’s tally to eight. The local administration has also raised alarms that the cases might be more numerous than what is being reported at its premier health institutions in Srinagar city.
With the lockdown in place, people have been advised to stay indoors and not risk getting out of their homes. Srinagar Cities District Magistrate tweeted on Wednesday,
Without Proper Infrastructure, Patients & Doctors Equally at Risk
The question, however, arises: are the doctors and patients safe? Interactions with both suggest not. There’s a looming fear that the people here will die without any medical care, as the state machinery is not equipped to deal with a worsening situation.
Refusing to acknowledge this fact, the Government Medical College (GMC) Principal, Samia Rasheed, took to social media to say that there are enough ventilators in Kashmir to contain the situation, but insufficient manpower to run them. However, she then tweeted again about a shortage of ventilators and demanded more from the Minister of State.
The statements came after the case of a 67-year-old woman who tested positive. She is believed to have skipped mandatory quarantine at the airport and made a VIP exit at the behest of her IPS son-in-law, whose family was also later quarantined, Kashmir Reader first reported. The Women is now said to have recovered and tested negative COVID-19.
Now, when three more cases were detected on a single day, the Kashmir Valley has been sent into jitters, with hundreds of travellers and students having entered Kashmir without quarantine or screening.
Reality of Hospitals
Bandipora District, where five positive cases are now confirmed, is ill-equipped and the hospital wears a grim look. Principal Secretary of Srinagar, Rohit Kansal, tweeted,
In the area, the District Hospital runs in temporary and shabby structures. The new hospital, once said to be one-of-a-kind, has been languishing under construction for the last 14 years.
The Medical Officer at this hospital, Dr Aijaz Kahn, who first attended the positive case on Monday, had to self-isolate after ferrying the patient to the Medical College in Baramulla.
He ferried him in his own vehicle, following the instructions of his superior officer, after the man presented with flu-like symptoms. The driver who ferried them, according to the officials, also contacted his family. Both the doctor and the driver had spent the night with their families and the following day at work.
In this ill-equipped hospital, doctors narrate a horrifying tale. They say they are not even equipped with masks for some measure of protection.
Doctor Asrar, one of the Doctors in the OPD, said,
The sister of one of the paramedical staff, who was attending to the patients at the ward without wearing gloves or a gown, says,
It’s a similar case with the technical staff. An X-ray technician, Mohammad Yaseen Khan, also feels unsafe. Wearing a disposable mask, he takes a chest X-ray of a 70-year-old old man, Abdul Gaffar, an asthma patient.
The same concerns are raised by the patients who attend to the hospital. Zamrooda, 26, who has a 7-month-old daughter Fatima with pneumonia, says that she stayed for the full night in the hospital's general ward and felt unsafe due to the congested space with patients and attendants huddled closely together.
Even the he sanitisation staff at the hospital is sanitising it without having any gear to wear, not even masks or gloves.