Injured youth dies at Covid Hospital, raising questions on protocol

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A young patient undergoing treatment for life-threatening head injury died today at CD Hospital here in less than 24 hours of being shifted there, raising questions about the COVID19 protocol in J&K and its efficacy in saving lives.

The young man from Shopian who had his 24th birthday last week died at Chest Diseases Hospital. The patient had met with an accident in Pampore on 27 June and had suffered grievous head injury, for which he was admitted to SMHS Hospital. Owing to the seriousness of his injuries, the patient had to be put on a ventilator. However, during the course of investigations, he tested positive for COVID19. As per the COVID19 healthcare facility protocol, all COVID19 positive patients at any of the GMC
Hospitals are to be shifted to CD Hospital, a designated COVID19 facility.

“Despite our pleas that the patient needs treatment for head injury, not COVID19, of which he had no symptoms, he was shifted to CD Hospital on Monday, 29th June,” a family member said.

At CD hospital, the patient was again put on a ventilator but died in less than 24 hours of being shifted. Dr Saleem Tak, MS CD Hospital said, “The patient died at 2.00 PM today,” adding, “The deceased had subarachnoid (brain) haemorrhage and had tested COVID19 positive yesterday at SMHS.”

The death highlights the shortcomings in the SOP of managing patients with critical, underlying ailments. A senior doctor working with GMC Srinagar said that it was common sense to know that this patient needed a neurosurgeon, not a pulmonologist. He said that no neurosurgeon or specialist of other branches were available at CD hospital, putting the lives of patients suffering from comorbid conditions into danger. The family member of the deceased said that no specialist from neurosurgery checked the condition of the patient at CD Hospital till his condition deteriorated.

This is not the first instance when patients undergoing treatment at SMHS Hospital have died at CD Hospital soon after their shifting, post testing COVID19 positive. Last week a 58 year old woman who was on a ventilator at SMHS Hospital was shifted to CD Hospital and died within 30 minutes of being shifted. On 15 June, an 18 year old patient with head trauma died at CD Hospital a day after he was shifted from SMHS Hospital.

A senior faculty member at GMC Srinagar said that it was imperative to ensure isolation facilities in the premises of SMHS Hospital, or at Super Specialty Hospital, to ensure that COVID19 positive patients, who need critical and specialist care, are not “dumped” in CD Hospital. “If they need a respiratory illness specialist, then only they should be in CD Hospital. It makes no sense otherwise,” he said, adding that the policy in place was pushing up the mortality attributed to the viral illness.

Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education, Atal Dulloo, acknowledged that trauma cases and those with other critical conditions need not be shifted to CD Hospital. He said that there was a need to “re-visit” the SOP for COVID19 management. “We need to have a separate ICU in SMHS as well as SKIMS for COVID19 patients,” he said.