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At Kashmir’s lone psychiatric hospital, docs slog to keep patients safe from COVID

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Srinagar: Yaseen (name-changed), a 38-year-old suffering from bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings, was asked to admit at Government Psychiatric Hospital, Rainawari last week. However, his family refused fearing COVID.

“Social distancing might be appropriate but we don’t want him to remain aloof and cut off from family for a long time. The experience will further traumatize him,” his father said.


Yaseen’s family is not alone. 24-year-old Umar (name-changed), a recovering substance abuser was rushed to hospital in an unconscious state. He had relapsed and returned to drugs.

“We were planning to admit him but his family showed reluctance because of COVID. Subsequently, we put him on medicines and asked the family to take care of his health and asked them to follow up on teleconsultations,” the doctor examining him said.

Among other things, the pandemic has affected the intake of mental health patients at the lone psychiatric facility of the valley. The hospital has to work extra hard to ensure that patients remain safe from COVID.

Currently, there are around 45 patients admitted to the Government Psychiatry Hospital, Rainawari.

Associate Professor Psychiatry Department, IMHANS, Dr. Yasir H Rather said when COVID-19 cases were reported in Kashmir, the department initially tried to minimize admissions and stop outside visitors.

“This was to prevent the virus from spreading among patients. Then eventually when there were some emergency cases, we created an isolation ward where new admissions were kept for 14 days. In the meantime, they were observed and tested to rule out Covid-19,” he said

Dr Yasir noted that since RAT (Rapid Antigen Testing) started, all new admissions have to get it done in the hospital as a baseline measure.

“So far we have been able to keep Covid-19 at distance from our hospital because of early intervention strategies and following SOP’s strictly,” he said.

The doctor said that regular briefings about how to follow the protocols from the beginning have now become a norm for the hospital administration. “This in turn keeps the staff and the patients safe,” he said.

Lecturer at Government Psychiatry Hospital Dr Junaid Nabi Bhat said it is much safer for someone to check themselves into a psychiatric hospital rather than trying to weather mental health crises alone.

“It’s safe for anyone experiencing urgent symptoms, including behavioural health emergencies, to come to the hospital. This is difficult at a time when patients are overwhelmed with conflicting, anxiety-provoking information from news outlets and social media. Critical care cannot wait, and our hospital is prepared to safely treat patients experiencing symptoms requiring acute care or fast evaluation,” he said.