Srinagar: Doctors in Kashmir hospitals, where suspected COVID-19 patients are admitted, have sought hostel accommodation, fearing that they might infect their family or others.
According to the doctors, there is a high probability they might get infected while on duty.
Two female resident doctors have already been put under observation after they complained about respiratory problems, fever and cold. While one of them works at the Sri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, the other is at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS).
The Residents Doctors Association (RDA) of Government Medical College in Srinagar and associated hospitals have told the authorities that instead of returning home after duty hours, they would like to stay in hostels as a precautionary measure.
There are three active coronavirus cases in Jammu so far, while Kashmir has only one.
“If you see across the world, there are many instances where doctors treating COVID-19 patients are invariably getting infected. Instead of carrying the infection back home and into our communities, we are of the belief that we should be given some sort of accommodation at hostels preferably nearer to our workplace. This will prevent the spread of the virus,” said Dr Mohsin Bin Mushtaq Shah, the president of RDA.
Shortage of masks, sanitisers
The doctors in the Valley have also raised the issue of extreme shortage of personal protective equipment such as triple-layer face masks and sanitisers.
A doctor at SMHS Hospital told ThePrint that shortage of protective equipment is also one of the reasons they want to stay in hostels.
Asked about shortage of masks and other equipment, Dr Nazir Choudhary, medical superintendent at SMHS Hospital, said there was a slight delay in distribution of personal protective equipment and masks, which were later provided to the doctors concerned.
“We have provided the masks today (Friday). There was a slight delay but we have provided the essential gear,” said Choudhary.
Asked about the demand for hostel accommodation, Choudhary said senior officials of the Health department would be able to appropriately respond to the matter.
But several calls made to Atul Dulloo, Principal Secretary, Health and Medical Education, went unanswered.
Dearth of doctors
There’s not just a shortage of masks and sanitisers, but doctors too.
Sources in the Health department told ThePrint there is a dearth of doctors in the Public Health Centres (PHC), which can potentially serve as the first facility for patients with symptoms to get checked.
“In 232 PHCs in Kashmir, there should be two doctors in each of them, which means 464 doctors. We only have 163,” said a source.
According to government data, the Average Radial Distance (km) of a PHC in J&K is 13.72 km and of a Community Health Centre is 29.67 km — far higher than the all-India average of 2.61 km and 15.66 km, respectively.
There are also reportedly less than 100 ventilators in Kashmir, which has a population of nearly 70 lakh, to help critical coronavirus patients, who require invasive mechanical ventilation to survive.
A Jammu and Kashmir administration official said : “… the Trauma Hospital in Watergam in north Kashmir was completed in 2018. It has been inaugurated thrice but there is no staff yet. The LG (Lieutenant Governor) has to approve the staff strength there which will be around 67 medical personnel. The file went to him last month,” the official added.
Last time the hospital was inaugurated in January by Information & Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Meanwhile, the J&K administration in an order issued Friday asked government employees to attend office on alternate weeks except those associated with coronavirus-control works.
The government also said Baseer Khan, adviser to LG, will be overall in-charge of coronavirus-related efforts in Kashmir.