In Jammu, a senior bureaucrat felt a soar throat and sent his swabs for a test to Delhi. It has been five days and he is still waiting for the results.
This is the state of diagnostic crisis not particular to J&K alone.
But Kashmir somehow has been fortunate as SKIMS was running a project that required a laboratory, exclusively for research purposes. But every time, there was a crisis, this laboratory was at the forefront of the crisis-management.
The laboratory is one of the eight facilities in India which are outcome of partnership between California based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Technically, this is the only testing facility in J&K that can manage H1N1 testing.
Prof Parvaiz Koul, who heads Medicine Department in SKIMS said the facility was set up at the peak of 2010 unrest. “Given the situation that prevailed in Kashmir, I asked them not to send us funds and instead send up equipment,” Koul told Kashmir Life. “It is one of the best stuffed labs with state of art equipment.” He said the facility is using the reagents, chemicals and other things which come from California.
While the facility was supposed to conduct a “dozen odd tests” a week, it has become an emergency centre to manage crises as and when it emerged. Last time, Koul said, when epidemic broke out in Sangerwani, this laboratory took the main load. There were a few outbreaks later as well.
The laboratory may not be in a position to manage a massive load. Currently it is carrying out 40 to 50 tests, every 24 hours. Currently all the swabs collected by the various hospitals across Kashmir are being sent to this laboratory that has added to its load. Besides, the staffers at the laboratory are facing massive overload and are devoid of certain basics which could prevent them from getting infected.
Given the desperation of patients to know the outcome of the tests, now doctors are sending the swab samples to private diagnostic farcicalities.
Though the central government has already decided to set up similar laboratories across India including Jammu and Srinagar, there is no visible forward movement. Though the medical college authorities have announced their facility will come up within two weeks, it sounds a tall order, given the time SKIMS took in establishing this laboratory funded by a third party.
“It took me one year to establish it,” Koul said. “But I can not going to comment on other initiatives because it is beyond my mandate.”
H1N1 has already led to nine deaths in Kashmir (officials confirm five only) and in Jammu a senior police officer died of the infection. The confirmation of his infection came a day after his death.