SOS: COVID-19 ICU beds full in Srinagar, critical patients in queue

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Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, has run out of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients in all five major hospitals.

The ICU wards of the hospitals in Srinagar have been overwhelmed with the inflow of the patients as the COVID-19 second wave grapples Kashmir. The Kashmir Walla received SOS calls from at least two patients who are critically ill at the Chest and Disease (CD) hospital, waiting to be shifted to the ICU. 

Among them is Khurshid Khan, 68, a COVID-19 patient, desperately looking to shift his COVID-19 infected wife, who is sicker than him, to an ICU bed. Both are at the CD hospital.

In the five COVID-19 designated hospitals: Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) hospital, the CD hospital, and Kashmir Nursing Home are not able to admit any more COVID-19 patients in ICU wards. 

There are forty-six ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in all the five hospitals. Until yesterday, as per the government data, thirty-eight were occupied and two were vacant at the SMHS hospital and six were vacant at the JLNM hospital. Today, all these vacant beds are occupied too. 

Speaking to The Kashmir Walla, Dr. Naveed Nazir, the medical superintendent of the CD hospital, said that the hospital is running with “100 percent bed occupancy in our ICU wards”. “In the last round, at least two patient needed ICU care,” he said. “We have no other hospital for referral.”

But Khan will have to wait more before his ailing wife would get any assistance. Nazir, the medical superintendent at the CD hospital, said since their parent hospital, the SMHS hospital, has exhausted the beds too, they have reached out to SKIMS’s management and are yet to receive a response. A senior doctor at the SMHS hospital confirmed all the ICU beds are full.

Dr. Farooq Jan, the medical superintendent at SKIMS, told The Kashmir Walla that Kashmir’s only tertiary care centre is fully occupied too. “We don’t have any patients on ventilators because we prefer putting them on invasive beds,” he said. “[But] we don’t have beds available with us. Whosoever needs to be shifted or referred, we will analyse the case and take a call.”

The COVID-19 has spilled into a crisis in Kashmir as more than 220 people died in April. The region saw a drastic 50 percent increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the last week as the region records a near-constant of 3,000 fresh cases daily — nearly  1,000 in Srinagar city.

Last week, on 21 April, Atal Dulloo, Health and Medical Education Commissioner, pressed that the situation is challenging but not out of control, and said that Jammu and Kashmir has made “ample preparations to meet the challenge”. 

Dr. Bilquees Shah, the medical superintendent at the JLNM hospital, also informed The Kashmir Walla that the administration is unprepared for the crisis. “We have twelve beds and all of them are occupied. All these patients are critical and more patients are being referred from other districts,” she said. “We cannot take more patients.” 

“It is the responsibility of Chief Medical Officers (CMO) in other districts who should start emergency services of ICU beds with oxygen in their [respective districts],” Shah added. “I’ve been talking to CMOs for the last ten days, telling them to start services in their own districts [and refer lesser patients to Srinagar].” 

Adding that Srinagar is on the brink of a crisis, Shah said: “Where will the patients from Srinagar go? All the hospitals are filled with critical patients and the situation is grim.”

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