Dr Suhail Naik, President, Doctors Association Kashmir believes a Covid-19 outbreak in Kashmir can hobble an already fragile healthcare delivery system
KL: Is our government prepared to tackle Coronavirus?
DSN: Government has done basic preparations, the same as for other flu viruses that have previously impacted Kashmir. Coronavirus comes with the same symptoms and causes and similar type of illness as other flu.
KL: But is this preparation enough?
DSN: There is a question mark on the level of preparations because the virus is so tough and new. Isolation measures, ventilator, hospital, administrative measures and preparations are akin to the flu virus. Preparedness means, whether the government is ready with doctors, infrastructure, and paramedics enough to deal with any crisis? Overall we are a fragile healthcare delivery system as we are in a developing world.
KL: Authorities say they are fully prepared?
DSN: These things cannot be arranged or managed within a week or months because to create a human resource for it needs a lot of training.
KL: We still don’t have a vaccine for it?
DSN: Generally worldwide we don’t have a vaccine for it but it may be available in a year or a two. If it enters the human body, there is only one care that is paracetamol, fluids and oxygen. Rest is the immunity of the patient. The limited data from Wuhan suggested that its mortality is 2%. And most of them are elderly. Flu Vaccines are widely available and generally, 40 to 60 per cent are effective.
KL: Authorities would like us to believe that we don’t need to worry?
DSN: If developed countries like China fumble and their infrastructure was not enough to deal with the crisis, imagine the disaster it can unleash in India, leave J&K aside.
KL: We can’t be like China in our response to it?
DSN: China can construct 1000 bedded hospitals in a week, can we? This virus can cause disaster in Kashmir as we lack infrastructure and human power. In India, especially Kashmir, we don’t have a large number of physicians, nurses, ventilators, appropriate patient-doctor ratio and doctor-nurse ratio. In Kashmir given the ratios, if God forbid virus breaks out, how can doctors treat a large number of people suffering from Coronavirus. An overwhelming number of patients will break the healthcare delivery system down. The Government needs to be prepared for the future because it may come again. And it may come with more virulence.
KL: Do we have enough masks or kits?
DSN: Getting masks or Personal Protective Kits, creating isolation wards is not a problem. One air flight will get a bulk of it. Our health care delivery system is poor.
KL: Is Coronavirus compatible with Kashmir’s climate?
DSN: For Coronavirus it is still not known how it behaves in different temperatures as research is still developing. It is still unclear whether temperature like Kashmir is favourable for its breeding or not.
KL: Is the location of isolated wards appropriate? At SMHS even though still empty, it is located at a place which is full of patients and attendees?
DSN: We must have separate respiratory clinics in case of an outbreak. If Coronavirus comes to Kashmir we need to have separate OPDs for respiratory patients so that other patients suffering from non-communicable diseases aren’t infected. And health care professionals who are treating those patients must have Personal Protection Kits because at the end of the day they are also susceptible to the virus.
(Note: this interview was part of the print edition that went to the market on March 7, 2020)