Despite mega procurement, gross ventilator shortage in Kashmir

‘Manpower, space remain unchanged; cannot operate additional ventilators’ Will ensure optimum utility of equipment: H&ME
Despite mega procurement, gross ventilator shortage in Kashmir
A doctor at GMC Srinagar said that despite having surplus “back-up” ventilators, the availability has remained more or less the same over the past few years. [Representational Image] Pixabay [Creative Commons]

Srinagar: Ventilator shortage continues to risk and cost lives in Jammu and Kashmir despite a procurement running into over 2000 units in the past two years. Shortage of staff to run this life-saving equipment, experts say, has made the ventilators inaccessible.

A senior healthcare official told Greater Kashmir that although a bulk consignment of ventilators was received last year, hardly any of these could be put to use in major tertiary care hospitals.

“The reason is that the hospitals have not expanded their ICUs citing space constraints and manpower shortage,” the administrator said.

Although none of the heads of the hospital administration was ready to reveal the exact number of functional ventilators, Greater Kashmir has learnt that SKIMS Soura has 100 functional ventilators; SMHS Hospital has 49 functional ventilators, while GB Pant Children Hospital has an ICU with 80 ventilators.

Apart from these three hospitals, Lal Ded Hospital has a Neonatal ICU while Chest Diseases Hospital Srinagar and Super Specialty Hospital Srinagar also have ICUs.

A doctor at GMC Srinagar said that despite having surplus “back-up” ventilators, the availability has remained more or less the same over the past few years.

“For running a ventilator, we need nurses, technicians and doctors, including Anesthesia specialists. The manpower availability has not increased, so there is a limit to the number of ventilators we can operate,” he said.

J&K Government last year said that 2095 ventilators had been received by the UT through various COVID19 preparedness packages. It said that 80 percent of these ventilators were fully functional and had been installed at various hospitals across districts, including the two DRDO Hospitals.

The Government said that 100 ventilators had been allocated to SMHS Hospital, 80 to Chest Diseases Hospital and many more to other major hospitals in Srinagar and other districts.

The ventilators had been procured post the Second Wave of COVID19 to augment the healthcare infrastructure across hospitals. The augmentation included those meant for pediatric and neonatal age groups.

However, the gross shortage of ventilators has continued in J&K, despite this major addition. Neonates, children, those injured in road accidents and those having medical emergencies are put in a queue for ventilators while they battle for lives.

The families are often seen providing mechanical ventilation to loved ones as they are tossed from one hospital to the other in search of a life support system.

Principal Secretary to Government, Manoj Kumar Dwivedi who holds the additional charge of Principal Secretary Health and Medical Education while speaking to Greater Kashmir said that hospital equipment was being maintained under Bio-Medical Equipment Maintenance Program.

He said the Government would ensure that the equipment supplied to hospitals is being utilized optimally. Regarding the machinery and equipment that was not being used, he said he will inquire from the officers the reasons for under-utilisation.

“We will ensure optimal utilitility and in case human resource is not available adequately, it will be arranged,” he said.

A senior official in the department said that the Government was in the process of creating a database of ventilators and their availability in real time.

“It will be a robust, online and real time system that will ensure that all equipment is being put to use in the best possible manner,” he said.

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