covid19, kashmir covid, kashmir doctors
A team of doctors conducted a door-to-door inquiry about the residents in Khayaam area of Srinagar, where a woman tested positive for COVID-19. Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase at an alarming rate in the Kashmir Valley, hospitals in the capital city Srinagar–where critically ill patients are being hospitalised–are facing an acute shortage of beds for the patients.

By 12 July, Kashmir recorded a total of 1,708 cases of coronavirus, of which about 1,145 are active and under treatment. Overall in Jammu and Kashmir, the tally has surpassed 10,500 and more deaths are being recorded.

Critical patients, described by doctors as “level three patients”, from across the Valley are hospitalised in Srinagar for treatment at the four main hospitals, as directed by the Directorate of Health, Kashmir.

At the Chest Disease Hospital (CDH), one of hospitals designated for the treatment of COVID-10, “[the] current situation doesn’t look very good”, said Dr. Naveed Nazir, Head of Department, Pulmonary Medicines. Dr. Nazir said, on 12 july, that of the hospital’s ninety-two beds, “all beds are occupied”. 

On the same day, tt the leading tertiary care hospital, Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), in Srinagar’s Soura, 78 percent of the beds were occupied, as per the Medical Superintendent, Dr. Farooq Jan. Currently, the hospital has 165 beds for COVID-19 patients, and a “capacity to add 200 more, if necessary”. 

Dr. Jan, however, warned that hospitals have to “be prepared for the worst.”

A recent data analysis of the deaths due to COVID-19 in J-K suggests that patients are reaching hospitals late as 80 per cent died within 24 hours of reaching a health facility.

COVID-19 primarily affects lungs of infected individuals, making oxygen support a vital aspect of the treatment. In another hospital in the city, the Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) Hospital, only about 33 percent of the beds are equipped with oxygen facilities, revealed Dr. Tabasum Shaw, in-charge medical superintendent at the hospital.

The hospital has upgraded fifty more beds for the patients of Gynecology, who test positive for COVID-19. “We can take only 200 patients; we cannot plan more than that”, said Dr. Shaw, on 11 July. “In the near future we might face the situation where we will not have enough beds because we are going to expect all the symptomatic patients in our hospital.”

And the current situation, where the hospital has merely five ventilators, “is very difficult for those patients who need oxygen machines and ventilators”, said Dr. Shaw. While JLNM hospital has five ventilators, SKIMS has just four ventilators dedicated to COVID-19 patients. Dr. Jan, the MS at SKIMS, said that the hospital is avoiding ventilating patients, instead “give them high flow oxygen”.

“We try to put them on transport ventilators with NIV masks. So that should be the first priority,” said Dr. Jan. For COVID-19 patients, SKIMS currently has “ten high flow oxygen machines, three NIV (Non-invasive ventilation) machines and twenty transport ventilators we are trying to get Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) masks for them.” 

At the SKIMS in Srinagar’s Bemina, popularly known as JVC, 71 percent of the beds were occupied on 13 July, as per the data given by the MS, Dr. Shafa Deva. However, as the number of cases increases in J-K, she said, the hospital has been asked to “expand our wards for the patients”.

“We need high dependency beds,” said Dr. Deva, but “we are still trying to plan out what to do and it might take some time.” Currently, the hospital has got five ventilators — two in the pediatric ward and three for adults.

Due to the sudden increase in cases, more wards at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS), also in Srinagar, are being converted into isolation wards in order to adjust the patients. “We had planned four wards with a capacity of 140 beds for the COVID-19 patients. Other hospitals don’t have enough capacity now because the patient load is increasing,” said Dr. Nazir Hussain Chowdhary. “So, we have now activated the plan. Right now, we have 174 beds. When they will get occupied, we will plan to extend more.”

The situation has worsened, said Dr. Chowdhary, as people didn’t follow the advisory. As the number of cases increases, several doctors have taken to social media sites asking people to stay home; Dr. Shaw among others is of opinion that the sudden spike in the cases is because of the carelessness of people.

From 13 July, the Srinagar administration decided to impose the partial lockdown again and reassigned the containment zone map. “Most of the people do not follow any protocol. They should not be behaving like irresponsible citizens. People have a responsibility towards the community,” said Dr. Shaw. “They don’t understand the degree of the situation of what they are landing into.”

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