At a time when people across the world are fighting against Covid-19 pandemic since its outbreak in China’s Wuhan in December last year, it left governments across length and breadth concerned for the safety of people. In Jammu and Kashmir, so far 80 people died while over 6400 people have been infected by the virus. To know what has been response of health authorities to contain the virus in Kashmir, Director of Health Services Kashmir Dr Samir Mattoo in an exclusive interview with Rising Kashmir’s Health Correspondent Mansoor Peer talks about the situation in the valley and efforts being made to contain the deadly virus.
What was your first reaction when first coronavirus case was tested positive in Kashmir in the month of March?
We started with training around 1000 lab technicians in sampling, doffing and donning at the start of the pandemic. These lab technicians are now part of sampling teams in districts, at airport, sampling of pregnant females, sampling of red zones, etc. This is baseline of the coronavirus mitigation process, everything starts with sampling and testing so we concentrated on quality of sampling.
How challenging is it to fight the virus?
Covid-19 pandemic has come as a challenge to entire mankind and every country is facing challenges so are we. But we have had a very scientific approach in dealing with this pandemic.
What is the strength of beds in all hospitals working under Directorate of Health Services Kashmir?
We have increased our bed strength for Covid-19 considerably. I envisaged the idea of obstetric triages in all districts. We established the triages in almost all districts that helped in the management of pregnant women. For example, obstetric triages have come up in almost each district which include JLNM hospital, Srinagar, SDH Sopore-Baramulla, CHC Hajin-Bandipora, PHC Marhama Anantnag, Old building DH Pulwama, Shadab Private Nursing Home Shopian, DH Ganderbal, SDH Kupwara, Emergency Hospital Qazigund Kulgam and DH Budgam. We are also developing PHC Channapora as 50 bedded obstetric and gynae hospital while MMC Wayil as 40 bedded hospital.
Has there been any improvement in the availability of ventilators in your hospitals after Covid-19 hit valley?
We have an adequate number of ventilators now in all dedicated coronavirus hospitals. Yes, we are getting more ventilators that will strengthen the Covid Hospitals.
Over the past three months, what has been the response of district hospitals in fight against the virus?
District hospitals have played a pivotal role in coronavirus mitigation efforts and are working to the best of the capacity and capability.
RK: Do you have any mechanism in place to aware the vulnerable sections of the society about precautions regarding Covid-19?
Dr Mattoo: We have been sensitizing the general public through print as well as electronic media. We have a dedicated social media platform where activities of the Department are projected. Also, we post messages about the importance of social distancing, use of masks, sanitizers, etc.
Is there any plan with you to conduct general or minor surgeries of patients waiting eagerly at home?
We have already started general and minor surgeries in all hospitals across the valley. We only require a Covid-19 negative certificate. As per our figures, more than 20000 minor surgical procedures were performed in the months of April and May 2020.
How many doctors or healthcare workers of DHSK have been infected by Covid-19?
Around 41 doctors and 109 paramedics have been infected with Covid-19 so far.
How do you see pregnant women being testing positive? It has left hundreds of expecting mothers in worry. How are you dealing with it especially in districts?
We have taken special care of pregnant females. We have created obstetric triages, we make sure they deliver properly and there are minimal referrals from peripheral institutions. It won’t be out of place to mention here that since April 2020, 7097 deliveries were conducted in government hospitals of Kashmir division other than the L.D Hospital out of these, 2851 cesarean sections were also done in these hospitals. Therefore, pregnant females are being screened properly and thereafter taken care of.
Are you getting adequate funds from the Center for Covid since the pandemic hit Kashmir?
Yes, we have received adequate machinery equipment, protective devices, cylinders etc from National Health Mission (NHM) and Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) and have properly distributed them to districts.
Patient care has come to a grinding halt especially minor surgeries. Is there any plan with you to allow any kind of general surgeries?
This is not entirely true. Routine non-emergency procedures were put to hold initially only to keep a check on the spread of coronavirus, but later on most of the routine services resumed in all primary and secondary health institutions except for designated Covid hospitals. This is substantiated by the fact that around 2200 major surgeries and 2851 cesarean sections were conducted in these two months only.
Your doctors are at frontlines fighting the virus amid difficulties. What is the source of your strength?
Yes, we are trying our best. I attribute it to hundreds of doctors and health care workers. It is there untiring and unflinching approach that has helped the department in fighting the pandemic. I really appreciate them for such brave and courageous efforts.
What is your message for the frontline workers?
My doctors and para-medics are my hands and arms. They are my warriors. It’s because of them we have been considerably able to control the pandemic in Kashmir division in spite of so much influx of travelers on daily basis. They are doing a wonderful job. I really salute their dedication.
What is the way forward?
We will fight coronavirus tooth and nail. We will use every possible resource available to come out of the pandemic. We have already prevailed and contained it to a larger extent with the support of our administrators, decision-makers and especially Covid warriors.