Risking their lives to save others

Covid worriers work tirelessly amid pandemic
Risking their lives to save others
Health workers during a testing drive at railway station in Jammu. [File: Mir Imran/ GK]

Kupwara, June 7: At a time when people feel afraid to venture out due to COVID-19, health workers put their lives in danger in line of their duty to save others. Here is story of three such covid worriers:

Manzoor Ahmad Malik

Manzoor Ahmad Malik, ambulance driver, from north Kashmir’s Kupwara district is in the health department for fifteen years. Hailing from Guloora village in Handwara, he leaves home every day at 8:30 to reach Sub District Hospital Kupwara where he is posted.“Usually a government employee is supposed to perform six hours’ duty but an ambulance driver always remains on toes because you never know when a medical emergency shall occur. My day starts at 8:30 am and there is no end to it especially during the ongoing pandemic,” he says.Manzoor who himself recently recovered from virus recalls that since the inception of COVID-19 in March last year, he has ferried hundreds of coronavirus patients to isolation centers across the district. Not just that, he has ferried bodies of over forty persons who died of COVID.His ambulance was once damaged by the public and he got severely injured in a stone pelting incident when he was carrying a body. “My vehicle came under heavy stone pelting in Kralpora Batpora village of Kupwara last year when I reached there with a dead body of a COVID patient who had succumbed to virus at SMHS Srinagar. The locals did not accept his positive report and resorted to heavy stone pelting, resultantly I was injured and my vehicle damaged,” Manzoor recalls.“At a time when attendants do not dare to go close to their COVID patients, I have to often monitor oxygen supply and other things on my own while ferrying them to tertiary hospitals in Srinagar and elsewhere. With dearth in staff at SDH Kupwara, I usually carry COVID patients alone and during driving if need arises I change their oxygen cylinders,” he says.He believes that the job of an ambulance driver is more difficult than of a doctor’s. “Once once the condition of a patient deteriorates he/she is referred to tertiary hospital for advance treatment. The ambulance driver has to ensure that the patient reaches in time to the tertiary facility because the last hours always remain crucial for every patient,” he says.Manzoor says that people/drivers must be sensitive to give way to the ambulances. He is also not happy with the Rs 5000 allowance announced by the J&K administration for the ambulance drivers. “It is not sufficient particularly at a time when we are rendering services round the clock. I appeal to the LG administration to increase our allowances,” he says.For last few months Manzoor has been deputed to carry RTPCR tests to SKIMS Soura and on an average he carries 400-600 tests every day.

Mohammad Ashraf Banday

Mohammad Ashraf Banday, a Male Multipurpose Health Worker (MMPHW) who happens to be Incharge of COVID sampling at District Hospital Handwara has conducted almost seven thousand COVID tests.Banday who hails from main town Handwara has been heading the sampling team for last nine months without any break. He along with his team carries more than hundred COVID tests daily and as per data available sixteen to twenty tests come positive.For Ashraf wearing PP Kit for the entire day is not less than a penalty. “Soon after wearing PP Kit at 10 am my whole body starts itching and sweating but since I along with my team remain in constant touch with the COVID positive patients, it becomes imperative to use PP Kit. Since our body remains covered from head to toe we can’t even take any food during the duty hours,” he says.“Common masses don’t know how much pressure a health worker has to face. I have kept a separate pair of clothes for duty which I wear on alternate days. I keep my clothes in a separate room to avoid any chance of spread of virus. Once I return from duty at 5pm, I take bath and then enter into kitchen,” he says.“I always keep on motivating myself that Almighty has chosen me for the services of mankind but the day when 33 out of 106 tests came positive, I felt dejected and broken,” he recalls.Performing COVID sampling duty up to 1pm daily, he has been shouldering post operative duty as he also holds the responsibility of being Incharge of post operative ward.“Since the inception of COVID, the work load has doubled. I have been heading post operative ward for last several years but due to dearth of staff at District Hospital Handwara, I was given responsibility of COVID sampling as well. I have taken it a challenge, but performing COVID duty is most demanding,” he says.Ashraf says that since 48 posts of doctors and paramedics at District Hospital Handwara are vacant, this has doubled the workload on the employees. He appealed to the LG administration to increase the staff at the hospital so that the employees may heave a sigh of relief.

Dr Mohammad Ashraf Mir

Dr Mohammad Ashraf Mir, Nodal Officer Vaccination and Head Rapid Response Team block Sogam, is an ISM doctor. He has so far administered ten thousand COVID vaccine doses to people living in upper reaches of Lolab and Sogam.Dr Ashraf who hails from Maidanpora, a remote village of Lolab, has along with his team administered COVID vaccines to people coming from Dhoban, Batnard, Warnav, Affen, Khudi, Sorigam and many other higher reaches of Lolab.He says that it has really been tough to convince people from upper reaches to take COVID vaccine. "People are much apprehensive about taking vaccine and don't come forward easily, we have to first persuade them and then hardly a few turn up for vaccination," Dr said.He says that the people residing in cities have been voluntarily coming forward for COVID vaccination but such is not the case in rural areas.He claims that the role of ISM doctors have been at par with MBBS doctors when it comes to performing duties during the first and second wave of COVID-19. But when it comes to rewards, “ISM doctors don’t get their due share”.Dr Ashraf says that performing duty in rural areas is much more difficult. He has been awarded by district administration Kupwara for his outstanding role in containing the Corona virus.

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