Kashmir hospitals run out of ICU beds

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In a major concern, beds meant for critically ill COVID19 patients have filled up across tertiary care hospitals in Kashmir, putting lives at peril while the number of cases requiring intensive care continues to grow fast here.

In the four tertiary care, Level 3, hospitals of Kashmir that are treating severely sick COVID19 patients, only three beds are vacant revealing the gross shortage of intensive care facilities for the patients battling for life here. In these hospitals, SKIMS Soura, SKIMS Medical College Hospital Bemina, SMHS Hospital and Chest Diseases Hospital, a cumulative of only 40 ICU beds are available of which 37 have patients battling for life – occupancy 93 percent.

At SKIMS Soura, a senior doctor said, one bed became vacant on Sunday when a patient expired. Prior to that, he said, the hospital refused to admit severely sick patients owing to non-availability of an ICU bed. “We get requests from hospitals for a ventilator bed or an ICU bed. We have no option but to refuse referral,” he said.

He said the hospital currently has only 8 ICU beds out of the total 300 that have been reserved for COVID19.

At Chest Diseases Hospital, doctors have been struggling to find a life-support bed for many patients who have deteriorating conditions. “It is painful to tell a family to wait till a patient who is occupying the ICU bed dies and it becomes available for their patient,” a doctor working there said. He said the hospital has more ICU beds than any hospital in Kashmir but “it is not enough” given the increasing load.

J&K Government’s media bulletin on COVID19 says that 116 ICU beds have been allocated in Kashmir division for patients infected with SARS-CoV2, distributed over 23 hospitals designated for COVID19. Of these, 76 beds are in peripheral set-up and 40 in tertiary care. Incidentally, only three ICU beds out of tertiary care have patients – all in JLNM Hospital Srinagar. No other hospital in peripheral set-up spanning over district and sub-district hospitals has an admitted patient reflecting the widespread referrals and poor facilities. “The tertiary care ICUs are bursting at seams,” a senior anaesthesiologist at GMC Srinagar said.

Many doctors in Kashmir have been voicing their concern over the limited ICU set-ups for COVID19. “We are dealing with a very serious situation now. We need oxygen beds and we need intensive care for the patients who need life support. Without these, we are only going to lose more lives,” said a senior administrator of a tertiary care hospital wishing anonymity. He said although infrastructure and equipment for critical care was available and enough ventilators, invasive and non-invasive had been procured over the past year, no dedicated teams for providing critical care had been deputed. “Without manpower, an ICU bed is not possible,” he said.

Presently, there are 22244 active cases of COVID19 in Kashmir division, of which 1138 are admitted across hospitals here as per the official data on the pandemic.