COVID patients in Srinagar struggle to get ICU beds as toll rises; UT govt warns against spreading 'rumours'

COVID-19 cases have seen a sharp rise in the last one month in Jammu and Kashmir with the number of active positive cases having crossed 30,000 on Saturday. The Srinagar district remains the worst hit with over 8,872 active cases and 546 deaths

Ishfaq Naseem May 01, 2021 22:04:50 IST
COVID patients in Srinagar struggle to get ICU beds as toll rises; UT govt warns against spreading 'rumours'

Representational image. AP

Srinagar: Family members of COVID-19 patients in Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar city said that they are unable to get ICU beds in hospitals, and blamed lack of medical assistance for the deaths of patients.

However, authorities rejected these claims, saying that some people with "vested" interests were only "projecting" shortages to create "scare" among the people and warned of action while dismissing such shortages as "rumours".

As of Saturday, all the 20 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients at Kashmir's biggest hospital of Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura remain occupied, hospital officials said.

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Family members of COVID-19 patients admitted at other hospitals, including the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in the UT's summer capital city, took to social media to seek help and highlight the shortage of ICU beds.

Several among those who highlighted these shortages include attendants of the patients, who said that doctors have expressed their inability to make the beds available to them.

Aijaz Ahmad of the Barbarshah area of Srinagar said that his mother Zoona Begum died as she couldn't get an ICU bed at one of the hospitals in Srinagar.

"We made desperate pleas for an ICU bed, but the doctors didn't even come to see my mother as she was gasping for breath," he said.

Begum died Friday evening.

At another hospital in Srinagar, the family members of 75-year-old Mohammad Asif Khan too were unable to secure an ICU bed for him.

"The condition of my grandfather is only worsening, but there are no ICU beds," said Gousia Jan, Khan's granddaughter. They have been procuring oxygen for him from outside the hospital, she added.

The 75-year-old COVID-19 patient was admitted to a hospital in Srinagar on 21 April. His oxygen levels have seen a sharp decline for the last two days.

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been under the Centre's rule since August 2019, has been battling shortages in ICU beds, oxygen, ventilators and other COVID-19 essentials due to a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

On Saturday (up to 5 pm), the Union Territory reported 3,832 new positive cases, 1,231 of them from the Jammu division and 2,601 from the Kashmir division. Moreover, 47 COVID-19 patients died in the UT on Saturday. Of them, 30 were from Jammu and 17 from the Kashmir Valley.

The authorities on Saturday extended the coronavirus curfew ending at 7 am on Monday (3 May) till 7 am on Thursday (6 May) in the four districts of Srinagar, Baramulla, Budgam and Jammu.

On Saturday, across Kashmir, markets and roads wore a deserted look in the absence of pedestrian and vehicular movement. Shops and business establishments were completely shut.

No shortages in UT, claims govt

The government, however, has denied that there is a shortage of COVID-19 essentials in the UT.

In a recent press conference, Lieutenant Governor's (LGs) advisor, Baseer Ahmad Khan, alleged that "there were certain people with certain vested interest" who are "deliberately projecting artificial scarcity" with an intention to "generate scare".

The J&K Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) Saturday tweeted that a rumour was being spread that four people died at Batra hospital in Jammu due to oxygen shortages. It said that they died "due to routine medical reasons, not because of shortage of oxygen".

"While there is increasing demand due to an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, no patient has died due to shortage of supply of oxygen. Please don't pay heed to rumours," DIPR added in the tweet.

Doctors, COVID-19 victims' kin reject govt version

Responding to the remark, several people tweeted that the deaths occurred due to a drop in oxygen levels and reiterated a shortage of ICU beds across the UT.

A number of doctors in the UT said that the government has not created the ICU infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir over the years even as they had been projecting the demand.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a doctor posted in the Shopian area of southern Kashmir, also said that there is a general shortage of anesthesiologists in Kashmir, adding that at least two such doctors are required for one ICU bed.

"Not only is there a shortage of ventilators, but we also have very few staff at the hospitals due to which requisite ICU beds couldn't be created over the years," the doctor said, adding that he is not authorised to speak to media.

Across Jammu and Kashmir, authorities have said that there are 600 ventilators for COVID patients. Dr Saima Rashid, Principal of Government Medical College in Srinagar, said that the GMC and its associated hospitals in Srinagar district have been properly equipped with the ICU beds.

These, however, are too few to cater to the surge in the cases, doctors said.

COVID-19 cases have seen a sharp rise in the last one month in Jammu and Kashmir with the number of active positive cases in the UT having crossed 30,000 on Saturday. The Srinagar district in Kashmir remains particularly the worst-hit registering over 8,872 active cases and 546 deaths.

Referrals adding to shortages in Srinagar city?

Doctors in the UT also said that COVID-19 patients are getting shifted from hospitals in rural areas to those in Srinagar city.

"We are only referring the severe cases to the hospitals in Srinagar," said another doctor, adding that there are no ventilators in rural hospitals.

Medical Superintendent of SKIMS, Soura, Dr Farooq Jan, said that all the ICU beds in their hospital were fully occupied as they are receiving patients from all across Kashmir.

"There is a need to fix the referral set up. We should get only those patients from the districts who have severe conditions," added Dr Farooq.

He, however, said that not all patients in ICU beds at the hospital were "on ventilator support".

"We have only six COVID-19 patients on the ventilator support including those on invasive and non-invasive ones," he added.

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