GMC Anantnag ill-prepared to deal with second wave

Health workers during a testing drive at railway station in Jammu. [File: Mir Imran/ GK]

As the second wave of coronavirus intensifies at Government Medical College (GMC), Anantnag the patients in need of life support system are directly referred to Srinagar hospitals, overburdening them further.

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility is virtually defunct, lacking manpower and has only four beds for the patients needing ventilator support.

The hospital catering to four south Kashmir districts – Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian – as well as parts of Chenab Valley had till early last year only two ventilators.

However, after Greater Kashmir carried a report on March 24 last year, ‘Just 2 ventilators for 30 lakh population in south Kashmir’, four more were procured by the hospital authorities through J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL).

Later, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, Government of India allocated 902 low-end ventilators to J&K of which 24 were given to GMC Anantnag.

This again did not bring any relief to the patients needing life support as they continue to be referred to Srinagar hospitals for want of space and trained manpower.

“Yes, we have ventilators now, nearly 10 among them invasive but to make them functional, we need to have a well-established critical care unit,” said a medic wishing anonymity.

He said the facility was ill-equipped, lacking adequate space, anesthetists and trained nurses.

“Four odd beds placed in a room that also has a dialysis section and few rooms for faculty members inside. No attached washroom. This is the ICU here,” a medic said.

He said it looks more like a general ward than a critical care facility.

“As there has been a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases, in the coming days we will have more patients in need of high-end ventilator support. The critical care units in Srinagar hospitals – SMHS, Chest Disease Hospital, SKIMS, JVC SKIMS are nearly occupied. In such a scenario, patients have nowhere to go,” the medic said.

He said, for now, the hospital was only dealing with COVID-19 or bilateral pneumonia patients needing normal oxygen flow (350 ml/ hour).

“The process of installing three high-end oxygen flow units (1000 ml/hour) is on,” the medic said.

An anesthesiologist said that unless the critical care gets enough specialists and other trained staff, it wouold not serve any purpose.

“There are only 13 specialist anesthetists running theatres of both GMC and its associated hospital Maternity Child Care Hospital (MCCH) that include two professors, one associate professors, two assistant professors, and eight senior residents,” he said.  “The faculty needs more trained senior residents who can run the ICU. We will also require more high-end ventilators in addition to the low-end ones, but before that the hospital should have specific beds meant for the ventilators, high-flow oxygen, monitors, suction, apparatus, separate staff including a doctor, nurse, and nursing orderly.”

The anesthesiologist said that till now they only are able to manage two to four patients requiring non-invasive ventilation.

“The patients requiring invasive ventilation are directly shifted to Srinagar hospitals,” he said.

The anesthesiologist said that not a single patient had been intubated in this ICU so far.

“Many lives that otherwise would been saved were lost for want of ventilator support in the hospital,” another doctor said.

He said that patients often lose the battle with life before reaching Srinagar hospitals.

Medical Superintendent (MS) GMC Anantnag, Dr Muhammad Iqbal acknowledged the dearth of manpower to run the facility.

“We are trying our best to give life support to patients using the available resources with us. However, we will need more manpower including trained medical staff and technicians,” he said.