As Kashmir battles swine flu cases every year, majority of tertiary care hospitals in the Valley are grappling with shortage of life support and infrastructure putting patients at risk.
The associated hospitals of Government Medical College Srinagar including SMHS and Chest Disease (CD) Hospital treat receive swine flu cases but patients are at risk due to lack of ventilator support.
Though SMHS hospital has an isolation ward but the situation becomes worrisome when H1N1 patients have to share room with other critically ill patients, making them susceptible of catching the virus.
A doctor at the hospital said usually swine flu patients are in need of intensive care. “However, doctors have no option but to wait to get a ventilator anywhere in the hospital.”
“Despite receiving H1N1 cases in the hospital over the years, the Medical College authorities have failed to move forward and provide ventilators separately for such patients,” he said.
According to him, putting H1N1 patients with general patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) was against medical ethics as influenza spreads to other patients, which often causes outrage at the facility.
“The general patients are already ill and are at risk when they are put in with H1N1 patients in one ward. Swine flu patients need to be put in separate ICU and this facility is must,” the doctor said.
He said recently two patients were in need of life support and were put in the general ICU due to lack of beds in the hospital’s medical intensive care unit. Both the patients died later.
“Isolation ward is only meant for isolation. It does not have life-support machines, needed for critical H1N1 patients. There is already dearth of ventilators and patients are at grave risk,” the doctor said.
An official at GMC said the isolation ward with poor bed strength set up earlier at CD Hospital Dalgate was non-functional until Sunday despite surge in swine flu cases.
“After two swine flu deaths were reported at SMHS, a team of doctors went to inspect the isolation ward at CD Hospital and made it functional,” he said.
Principal GMC, Dr Samia Rashid said they have started the isolation ward at CD Hospital.
“It has both isolation and intensive care unit. It is meant for the swine flu patients,” she said.
The H1N1 cases started pouring in since September last year.
A doctor said 12 people have died of swine flu this year.
He said of the 12 deaths, 10 patients died at SKIMS and two at SMHS hospital.
Director SKIMS, Dr Omar Javid Shah told Rising Kashmir that Kashmir that H1N1 is under control. “The swine flu cases will witness decline once there is improvement in weather conditions.”
“The swine flu virus mostly affects elderly and children especially with comorbidities like cancer and other renal diseases,” he said.
Shah said in April last year they had set up a swine flu expert team. “The team is alert and continuously monitoring the situation and taking care of the cases thereof.”
He said most of swine flu deaths were cases of comorbidities.
“Last year, till this date more than twenty patients had died. The virus is under control,” he said adding that they are geared up with facilities.
He said SKIMS is in process of procuring more ventilators for H1N1 patients. “We have over a dozen beds in isolation ward, where four patients are currently being treated.”
“Our success rate is more than 95% as most patients, who were tested positive and visited here for treatment, were discharged after proper treatment,” he said.
A SKIMS official said since September last year, 120 swine flu positive patients visited the Institute’s outpatient department and of them, 52 were admitted in the hospital.
In Kashmir, the situation was worst during last winter when 30 swine flu deaths were reported at SKIMS between October 2017 and February 2018.
In 2009, when H1N1 was spreading fast, the World Health Organisation called it a “pandemic”.