Srinagar: As the number of COVID-19 positive cases increase with each passing day, healthcare workers and medical experts in Kashmir region are calling for renewed administrative measures to deal with the pandemic instead of relying entirely on the enforced lockdown.
Doctors fear greater risk due to the lack of adequate facilities like Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) or safety gear like body covers, sanitisers, masks and gloves while dealing with patients. Doctors working at the forefront against the disease are apprehensive that they might end up catching and spreading the disease--just like in Iran, China and Italy where scores of healthcare workers have already died after contracting the virus.
Earlier, on Monday, among the new positive cases was a doctor from Government Medical College Jammu, the first instance of a healthcare worker to get infected in the region. But, he certainly won't be the last, doctors claim.
"There is an absolute chance of the medical workers here with inadequate protection equipment becoming the victims and vectors or carriers themselves. There should be an abundance of surgical triple layer masks, N95 masks and hand sanitisers for all healthcare workers and standard protection gear for medical staff workers working in quarantines, isolation and respiratory clinics," Dr Masood Rashid, an anaesthesiologist told NewsClick.
As the lack of PPE can directly hit the health workers, many volunteers in the region are locally making the protection gear. Healthcare professionals, however, say that it is not enough.
"There is no scientific evidence that these homemade masks will help," Dr Masood added.
COVID-19, which originated from China's Hubei province and spread worldwide infecting over 7.8 lakh and killing over 37,000 people including healthcare workers, has so far killed two in the Kashmir region. According to official figures, over 50 cases have been confirmed positive in the Jammu and Kashmir union territory with most cases in the Kashmir Valley area.
In a statement, Dr Maajed Jehangeer, president of Jammu and Kashmir Society of Consultant Doctors (JKSCD), said the health care workers are struggling to cope with this scourge and called for restructuring of the COVID-19 fighting measures at the grassroot level.
"Since the present situation with COVID-19 pandemic is of unprecedented proportions, as such, constant re-evaluation of our strategies and implementation of revised policies as new data and scientific information become available is imperative and should be a continuous process," Dr Jehangeer said.
Consultant paediatrician and president of Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK) Dr Suhail Naik says that people and the administration must rely on public health measures which includes non-medical interventions to deal with the outbreak.
"The pandemic has to be dealt with at political, administrative and community levels. The chain, however, cannot be broken by enforcing lockdown only, there has to be a continuous process of early detection, testing and isolation. We have to do more tests," Dr Suhail says.
Medical experts also suggest that the government revise its policies regarding the isolation of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in quarantine as a measure to ease the burden on hospitals and staff given the state of the healthcare infrastructure existing in the region. There is fear as hospitals lack resources to deal with the crisis in case of a surge in coming days.
Doctors are of the opinion that there has to be an effective quarantine of infected cases which includes taking up measures like providing each patient with a separate washroom instead of keeping multiple patients in a single room at the hospitals that defeats the idea of quarantine, a practice which has not been avoided effectively so far.
Also read: COVID-19: Street Vendors Lose Livelihood, Deprived of Relief Measures