Srinagar:- With a population of 68.88 lakh Kashmir Valley has only 97 ventilators to help critically-ill coronavirus patients who require invasive mechanical ventilation to survive.
Sources at the Health Department told Kashmir Observer that there is a shortage of ventilators in the Kashmir valley and almost all the functional ventilators are occupied presently.
Valleys premier health care institute, Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, (SKIMS) Soura has 40 ventilators while State Hospital (SMHS) has 18 ventilators. 16 Ventilators are at Chest Diseases Hospital, Drugjan, ten at GBP Hospital for Children, two at Lal Ded Memorial Maternity Hospital and two at Bone and Joints Hospital, Barzulla.
South Kashmir’s Government Medical College Hospital at Anantnag has two ventilators, while North Kashmir’s GMC Hospital has three. There are four ventilators at District Hospital Handwara. Kupwara and Bandipora district hospitals have no ventilator facility at all.
According to Medical Superintend SKIMS, Dr. Farooq Jan the institute has 40 ventilators right now but sources in the institute said some of them are out of order and remaining remain occupied most of the time.
“Generally most of them remain occupied but I don’t know the current status,” Dr. Jan admitted. When asked what if they face rush of patients due to coronavirus break out in Kashmir how will they manage? Dr Jan said, “We will manage at that time and we are in the process of purchasing 60 more ventilators.”
Doctors at Srinagar’s another major territory hospital, SMHS told Kashmir Observer that all the ventilators in the hospital are occupied with patients and they don’t have one dedicated for the COVID-19 patients. Doctors said they even don’t have face masks available in sufficient numbers.
“Leave ventilators aside, we don’t have even face masks for doctors. I wore this mask at 8:00 AM today and it’s 4:PM I am still using it when medically you need to change the mask every 2 hours,” a doctor said wising anonymity.
For some critically-ill COVID-19 patients, mechanical ventilation can be the difference between recovery and death, doctors say.
Ventilators assist or replace respiratory functions, pumping oxygen into the blood for vital organs. They are “the main supportive treatment” for patients in the critical stage of COVID-19 when the mortality rate is 61.5%, a Feb. 24 Lancet medical journal study found from a sample of 52 patients in a hospital in Wuhan.
According to Dr. Nisar-ul-Hassan, President Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), hospital authorities need to put in place dedicated ventilators for the positive-COVID 19 patients.
“Every bed in the isolation ward must have dedicated ventilator and they must not be used for other patients. You can’t keep these patients in other ICU wards were other normal patients are present. You never know the magnitude of an outbreak so you have to be prepared for that,” he said.
Principal Government Medical College Srinagar Professor Dr Samia Rashid admits that the hospitals in the city lack manpower and mechanics. She said GMC administration that controls over seven hospitals have applied for the requisition of over 50 more ventilators.
“There is a lack of manpower, machinery, and other infrastructure and on top of that the footfall of the people in the hospitals has increased,” she told Kashmir Observer adding that she has requested government to close the OPD’s and routine surgeries for now.
The question is how with just 97 ventilators, many of them not functional, will we be able to contain any community spread of the dreaded pandemic?
“God forbid if China or Iran like situation grips Kashmir, people will die like animals here,” said a physician working in Bandipore District Hospital.
With no major medical facilities in private sector in Kashmir it was found that the government run hospitals here lack specialised masks, testing kits and space to establish special quarantine and isolation wards.
Kashmir Observer contacted Director Health Services, Kashmir, Dr. Samir Mattoo and asked him why hospitals in Kashmir are not equipped with the required number of ventilators.
“Not every coronavirus patient will require a ventilator. They need a separate ward and we’ve enough of them”, he responded. He also said that Heath Department was monitoring the situation very closely and did not find signs of any community spread.” Mattoo however hastened to add that, “We will manage at the time of crises”.