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36 Kashmir hospital staff asked to self-quarantine after pregnant women test Covid-positive

The staff at Kashmir's Lal Ded hospital include consultants, senior resident doctors, postgraduate doctors, OT assistants, technicians, nurses.

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Srinagar: As many as 36 medical personnel, including senior resident doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses, in Kashmir’s primary maternity hospital have been asked to home-quarantine themselves after they treated emergency cases of pregnant women, who later contracted coronavirus, ThePrint has learnt.

Senior officials at the Lal Ded hospital, however, told ThePrint the facility has enough backup of medical staff to deal with the workload.

Jammu and Kashmir has seen a spike in the number of pregnant women contracting Covid-19 this month. As of Friday, a total of 46 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus in Kashmir.

As of 22 May, J&K has 1,489 confirmed cases, of which 749 are active cases. As many as 720 have recovered and 20 have died, which include two deaths in Jammu and 18 in Kashmir.

Also read: 12 pregnant women among 108 new coronavirus cases in J&K, highest single day spike

Cases at Lal Ded hospital

Lal Ded (LD) hospital is the main maternity hospital in the Valley and admits between 100 and 120 patients every day.

Earlier this week, at least three pregnant women were brought to the hospital’s emergency ward and all of them required immediate surgery.

“Doctors even performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on one of the women, who seemed like she had passed away when she was brought to the hospital. This woman was resuscitated and operated upon along with the other pregnant women,” said a doctor at the hospital, who didn’t want to be named.

“Doctors managed to save all the three women. But later tests conducted by a team of microbiologists found the women were positive for the coronavirus,” he said. The results came on 19 May.

Following this, several staff from the on-duty units of gynaecology and anesthesiology wards, who had treated the three patients, were asked to go into home-quarantine, according to a hospital document accessed by ThePrint. 

The staff included consultants, senior resident doctors, postgraduate doctors, operation theatre assistants, technicians and the security guard.

So far, 21 health workers in J&K have tested positive for the coronavirus, while several have been put under isolation.

Two of the women came to hospital from red zone

Another doctor told ThePrint one of the three pregnant women “with whom the maximum of 36 staff came in contact” belonged to a village in Bandipora, which falls in the orange zone.

“She was suffering from vaginal bleeding… At that point, we had no idea if the patient was Covid positive or not. So doctors performed CPR on her. She was resuscitated and later operated upon. Another option was to shift her to an isolation ward in LD, wait for her Covid tests and then approach accordingly. The patient did not have that much time,” he added.

The other two pregnant women, however, belonged to areas falling under the red zone.

According to the official norms, pregnant women in red zones have to be enlisted and their check-up needs to be managed at the recently established health centres in red and buffer zones.

“There are already norms under which all pregnant women should be tested, but this is not happening. There should also be established norms about whether emergency cases from the peripheries of Kashmir, or rural areas, should be brought to LD hospital or should be taken to hospitals specifically designated to take care of Covid cases,” the first doctor said.

Some still coming to duty

While some among the 36 health staff have gone into self-quarantine, some are still coming to duty as they found their name on the roster. 

“It is such a mess. We were told to go into home-quarantine, but when we checked the duty roaster, there were no changes in it. So, we came on duty,” said a doctor, who is among the 36 staff.

“This is not the only concern. There hasn’t been any contact-tracing of the doctors or paramedics, who came in contact with the Covid cases this week. We can’t afford the entire staff of our primary maternity hospital getting infected. It will be a disaster,” said the doctor.

When contacted, Dr Shabir Sediqui, medical superintendent of LD Hospital, said the facility was taking all necessary steps to deal with the situation.

“There are guidelines issued that all pregnant women are supposed to undergo Covid test two weeks before their delivery date. We have started the procedure, but there have been some backlogs. The testing does take time, but eventually every pregnant woman coming to LD will be tested,” he said.

“About our staff being asked to go into quarantine, our management already has taken into account the possibility of health workers getting infected. Mechanism to treat the health staff and also to not allow their absence affect the functioning of the hospital have been put into place,” Sediqui said.

President, Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK), Dr Suhail Naik, said to avoid infection among medical personnel, PPE must be made available.

“Here staffers get PPE which they have to use for 24 hours instead of the prescribed six hours,” he said.

“More than 90 per cent of the Covid cases in Kashmir are asymptomatic. So the only solution is to carry out massive testing of the public. But there will still be cases which might slip even after testing negative as we have seen there have been many false negatives,” he added.

Also read: Inside the Srinagar control room, which is trying to keep coronavirus at bay in J&K


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