The Kashmir Walla’s Zenaira Bakhsh spoke with Mohammad Salim Khan, head of the department of Community Medicine and Nodal officer for COVID-19 at Government Medical College Srinagar, on the challenges emerging from the second wave of COVID-19. Here are edited excerpts.
What has the first wave of COVID-19 taught doctors? What is different now?
After the first wave, augmentation of equipment was done in the hospitals and the oxygen supply was improved. So as of now, the hospitals are able to deal with all the cases and there is no shortage of beds or oxygen because the augmentation of oxygen was done last year. Additional oxygen plants were installed in the hospitals last year and more oxygen cylinders were brought by the hospitals. As on date, there is no such dearth of oxygen or oxygen beds and oxygen cylinders.
If we compare the situation during the second wave with last year, the patient load is increasing day by day. Chest Disease Hospital and a few other hospitals are full right now. And most of the patients in these hospitals are on oxygen right now. The situation was not like this last year. For example, if we take Kashmir Nursing Home, there used to be patients who did not require oxygen at all. But this year, the situation is different and we have patients there who require oxygen. The spectrum of patients is increasing and there are more serious patients now.
How are hospitals coping with patient inflow?
Till now the oxygen capacity in the hospitals has not been stretched. Last year the augmentation of oxygen was done and new plants were added. Talking about the ventilators, we have adequate ventilators till now. Having a ventilator will not help completely unless we have a ventilator with an ICU setting.
Government needs to keep a check on the increasing load and when they need to convert non-covid hospitals into COVID-19 hospitals to deal with the rush of patients. So we can say that if the rush continues then more hospitals need to be converted. However, it completely depends on the government.
Which age groups are at more risk of COVID-19?
This year, all age groups are getting affected by the COVID-19 infection and all age groups are at equal risk. Younger patients with severe conditions are being admitted. Last year, only elderly people and people with comorbidities used to be admitted in the hospitals but this time young people without any comorbidities are suffering from severe pneumonia affecting their lungs. Even children this year are getting clinical symptomatic presentations. In the last epidemic wave, hardly any child was presented with a clinical picture but this time many children are having symptoms. This is a point of concern for the doctors.
Second waves are usually more vigorous, widespread and severe than the first wave. So nobody can anticipate the upcoming situation. There is absolutely no model that can help in predicting the future of this virus in the next few days.
What can the public do to protect themselves?
People should stay indoors and not come out unnecessarily. They should follow the Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs). If someone is sick or feels that he is showing symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention.
People who are self-isolating should keep a check on their own oxygen saturation levels and if the levels drop, they should go for consultation and decide whether they need to be shifted to the hospital or stay at home.