Srinagar, Mar 29: It is a complete mess at Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Hospital (JLNM) in Rainawari here.
With 105 COVID-19 contacts quarantined at the hospital, there is a visible daily struggle between doctors and these people. And it is hard to determine who should be blamed?
One batch among these 105 are around 12 close family members of the elderly Srinagar man who passed away earlier this week. Apart from the deceased’s son, the 12 include three children (ages 3, 7, and 12) as well.
The deceased had travelled in India and attended a religious gathering which included some foreigners as well and it is highly likely he may have contracted the virus from them.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor over the phone, one of the family members said while they were staying put in the hospital, they have realised it is becoming more of a danger for them.
“We 12 have been set-up in one hall but we have to share a single washroom with at least 20 other suspects. We know we can’t expect home like treatment, but common sense says we are at risk since the other suspects have not been tested yet,” the family member said.
“The other day, one of the kids from suspects kept in another hall was not well and puked in the washroom, no one cleaned in. And we don’t know whether should use the washroom or not,” the family member said.
All 12, he said, have tested negative.
Sources in the hospital said that there are two positive COVID-19 patients isolated in one of the wards, while 105 contacts of patients tested positive for the virus have been put up in at least seven halls.
Most of them include family members and contacts of Hyderpora (deceased patient) and Natipora cases.
An 11-day-old baby and its mother is among the 105.
Each ward has different number – 25, 20, 16, 12, 10, 10… – of suspects in it
A chunk of them come from Chattabal area of Srinagar. Many of them even tried to flee from the hospital twice in the last 48 hours.
A female from Chattabal put up in the hospital said they are not demanding a five-star hotel treatment, they just want to be safe and have proper food.
“We were served stale bread. We are being treated as untouchables. No one attends us, our samples haven’t been taken even though it is our third day here,” she told this reporter on Saturday.
The nearest testing facility for such suspects is Chest Diseases Hospital as JLNM is yet not equipped to test patients for coronavirus.
The Kashmir Monitor had a detailed discussion with Resident Medical Officer JLNM, Dr Bilquis Shah. Dr Shah is supervising the isolation and quarantine of suspects in the hospital.
The doctor clearly has her hands full during this crisis. Her shift these days starts at 8 in the morning and ends by midnight.
She said 18 patients in the hospital have been tested so far, of which two came out COVID-19 positive.
“You won’t believe how much hassle we had to face while preparing for sampling the suspects. We did not have proper logistics and had to go and find dealers for even the smallest of things, like test bags, and other equipment needed to sample them,” she said.
The samples will be send to CD hospital since JLNM doesn’t have the facility to test for coronavirus yet.
“We hope to sample at least 30 of them on Saturday,” she said.
Asked about the safety concerns raised by the suspects, Dr Shah said the hospital has provided the all “possible facilities” it can in current circumstances.
“The thing is these suspects want home-like comfort. They want separate washrooms, hot water for bathing, extra cushions, soup and the like. We cannot provide them that right now. We have put them in large separate halls,” she said.
The hospital administration, the doctor said, provided all medicines to the suspects with comorbidities like diabetes or hypertension.
“Even baby food, which was hard to get, was arranged for the infant,” she said.
The suspects from Chattabal and Batamaloo, she said, are always looking for a way out.
“We have five policemen guarding them. But the issue is when they try to flee, no one dares to even go close to them because of the possibility of getting infected.”
“The bottom-line for them is that they want to go home. That is not possible though,” she said.
Asked if all of them using common bathrooms fails the purpose of the quarantine, the doctor said the hospital cannot give them separate washrooms.
“See this hospital was not meant to be a quarantine facility for suspects. It was meant to only treat any positive cases. But as cases are surging every day, we have to take the responsibility. There is only one washroom for each ward. They could have been put up in hotel rooms, or even at homes, but the issue is whether they would follow the strict isolation rules or not,” she said.
The doctors at JLNM, she said, have these days turned more into “pehredaar” (guards).
Asked about food, Dr Shah said they had a lot of difficulty finding a vendor who would cook separately for these suspects.
“We finally did find one.”
Asked about home food, she said that they do allow the same but have strictly told the suspects that it has to be carried and delivered in disposable bags.
“Anything going in (from the facilities) in these wards cannot come out because of the fear of infection.”
The doctor suggested that even if their tests turned negative, the suspects still had to be in isolation.
“I suggest if they go home after that, there should be policemen guarding each of their homes to ensure they don’t venture out,” she added.