Jammu and Kashmir hospitals ill-equipped to deal with coronavirus pandemic; UT has 180 ventilators for 1.25 cr population

Srinagar: With coronavirus taking a heavy toll on health of people across the globe, Jammu and Kashmir hospitals are ill-equipped to deal with the crisis.

There have been over three lakh coronavirus cases, claiming over 15,000 lives across the world so far. Most of these deaths have taken place in developed countries where health infrastructure is far better than India.

India is not only under-equipped to handle an epidemic like that, but its population is also closely packed with a culture that does not encourage social distancing.

 Jammu and Kashmir hospitals ill-equipped to deal with coronavirus pandemic; UT has 180 ventilators for 1.25 cr population

Representational image. PTI

Among Indian states, Jammu and Kashmir is one of the states further worse off because for a population of 1.25 crore, there are around 180 ventilators in the Union Territory's hospitals. Almost all are occupied by the patients at all times, rarely leaving any space for COVID-19 patients if the need arises.

In Kashmir alone, for a population of 70 lakh, there are just 93 ventilators in hospitals. Almost all are occupied by patients suffering from various ailments.

"Although only one patient has been tested positive in Kashmir so far. God’s forbid, if the virus spreads in Kashmir, our health system is in poor state. We are not in a position to deal with any eventuality and there will be a crisis situation," a senior doctor at Shar-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura Srinagar, said.

The doctor said there are just four ventilators in isolation wards in Kashmir hospitals where patients with symptoms of coronavirus are kept. "The ventilators are already occupied by patients in cardiology and wards of other departments. Patients having coronavirus symptoms can't be shifted to ICU as they have to be isolated. Our hospitals are most poorly equipped across India," the doctor said.

Doctors have also have raised concerns about the lack of proper and adequate protection gears and safety equipment like N95 masks, PVC coated gowns and ventilators in hospitals.

Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) led by Dr Suhail Naik has written a letter to Basheer Ahmad Khan, the newly appointed advisor to the Lieutenant Governor of  Jammu and Kashmir saying that hospitals in Kashmir lack “proper and adequate personnel protection gear especially N95 Masks, PVC coated gowns, goggles and other equipments."

The doctors' body has requested the L-G's office to procure adequate amount of ventilators to augment the capacity of district hospitals and to open new medical colleges in the Valley.

Medical staff including doctors, nurses and lab technicians say they fear for their safety and don't want to serve in wards where patients with coronavirus symptoms are lodged.

A SKIMS doctor tweeted, "We are in the middle of the battleground, the way armed forces are being provided the arms and personal protection likewise docs and medical staff must be equipped with who designated personal protective equipment in order to bend the curve of transmission. Otherwise be ready for the calamity which can create havoc."

A doctor at GB Panth Hospital Srinagar said there is no protective gear for doctors and paramedics. "Even N95 masks and sanitisers are not available for doctors and paramedics who are working in ICUs," the doctor said.

Shortage of proper protection equipment has been one of the reasons for infections among health workers. There have been sporadic reports of doctors/nurses testing positive in rest of the India as well, increasing the sense of insecurity among medical personnel.

Principal Government Medical College Srinagar Dr Samia Rashid said, "We had a detailed meeting with MoS Jitendra Singh to discuss our preparedness for Covid 19. We highlighted the issue of shortage of ventilators with him and Director NHM. We have been promised 40 high end ventilators by the end of this month. We have enough ventilators to contain the situation right now but our manpower to run them all is not sufficient. We are already in process to address them."

Deputy Medical Superintendent SKIMS Soura Dr Ghulam Hassan Yatoo said 29 patients having coronavirus symptoms were put under observation at the hospital. "Nine have been discharged while 20 are still under observation among them one is positive," he said.

He said SKIMS received 20 ventilators on Friday. "I have to check when they will be made operational," he added. The hospital also has to increase the oxygen capacity before making them operation, sources said.

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Updated Date: Mar 25, 2020 07:40:01 IST


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