Covid19’s Omicron Is Playing With Kashmir’s Healthcare Setup

by Zakia Qurashi

SRINAGAR: With the Covid19, third-wave almost ruling Jammu and Kashmir, every day is a new record. January 20, 2022, witnessed an all-time high record when 5992 residents tested positive for Covid19 – 4072 of them in 10 districts of Kashmir alone.

What is almost not being acknowledged is that a huge number of healthcare workers from various hospitals are also turning positive, at an increasingly fast rate. This could impact the delivery of healthcare services.

Dr Salim Khan, Professor and HOD community medicine Government Medical College, Srinagar and associated hospitals said that about 546 doctors and paramedics have tested positive for Covid-19 till January 18, 2022. “The total number of positive cases is 546 out of which 143 are medical students, 185 doctors and 168 paramedics.”  On Wednesday alone over 100 staffers tested positive thus taking the total count to 736.

Dr Khan while explaining the scenario said that Covid19 cases have been increasing from the last one week because of the higher transmissibility of the virus. “It’s highly infectious than the second wave and more transmissible from the previous variants,” he said, hoping that those who were initially infected will recover soon by the end of this week. “The rising number of positive cases in the hospitals is creating a shortage of workforce. Many staff members are returning positive every day.”

The Director of Health Services Kashmir, Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather, however, denied any paucity of staff in the primary and health care hospitals across Kashmir. Although, he mentioned that the workload has increased.

While some of the hospitals in districts are managing the workload, others are complaining of staff shortage. Dr Imran, who’s posted in Anantnag, said that they have managed it. “In each and every section we manage it. There is no dearth of staff. We had 5-6 positive staff members of which a few were paramedics and a few doctors. I was myself positive a week ago,” he said.

On the other hand, one of the doctors from Sub District Hospital Sopore on condition of anonymity said that they are running out of staff. “Almost 30 per cent of the staff returned positive in which about 15-20 are doctors only,” the doctor said. “If CMO Baramulla could provide us with some staff, our work will be eased.” He also said that each section in the hospital is reeling under a gross shortage of staff.

Dr Mir Mushtaq, spokesperson of the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) said that since the inception of Covid-19 more than two thousand healthcare workers have tested positive. “In the last three weeks, more than 250 healthcare workers have returned positive for tests.”

Meanwhile, Medical superintendent Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS), Soura, Dr Farooq Jan refused to divulge any details. “We cannot tell you anything regarding the infections among healthcare workers. We have been directed by the Chief Secretary not to interact with the media on this issue,” he said and dropped the call.

However, sources in the key hospital said that almost 25 to 30 per cent of the staff was impacted by the infections. “Those who test positive isolate and once they are all right, they return to their duties,” one doctor said. “This is what we did last time.”

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