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World Health Day: Celebrate unsung heroes of battle against COVID 19

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Srinagar: Caught in a dilemma, Musawir Khwaja, a young staff nurse working in the COVID-19 ward at the Chest Diseases Hospital, Srinagar, often wonders about the possible personal cost the disease can bring to him.
“What if I am not immune and get exposed – assuming, in line with current thinking, that immunity can be conferred? What if I am part of a team caring for a patient who develops symptoms and no PPE is available? To what length am I willing to go as a nurse with a young family and people who love and depend upon me?” he asked.
Oblivious to the outside world, Musawir has been staying in his room for the last five days. The 29-year-old is on a five day off after delivering his 24 hours shift.
From doing laundry to having meals alone, he sits in the room from dawn till dusk. “I was passed on new clothes and soap through the window when I came back from the hospital. I took a shower in the outside bathroom and wrapped my worn clothes in a bag,” he recalled.
Musawir said that he had to beg his parents – who are in their sixties – to start social distancing two weeks ago. “I worry about their state of mind. I know how important it is for them to see me. But I have been fearful of going near them so that I don’t end up as a source of transmission,” he said.
Musawir said his wife, who is also a healthcare professional, worries about the risk to him and his family. “My wife respects my commitment and wants to support me to use my skills to help, but I need reassurance to be able to do that. It is the reassurance I can’t currently offer,” he lamented.
This is not an isolated case. Nurses and health line workers are at the forefront of tackling COVID 19 in Kashmir. Unmindful of their safety, some health workers use raincoats as hospitals are short of PPEs in the valley.
And this year the theme of World Health Day is, support nurses and midwives.
Data of the Government Medical College, Srinagar, reveal that there are 800 nurses working in all associated hospitals in the valley. Out of 800 nurses, only 500 are permanent and rest are temporary are working on a contractual basis.
Figures reveal that there are 35 nurses working in the Chest Diseases Hospital with 92-bed strength. Chest Disease Hospital is the frontline health institution to treat COVID 19 Patients
President Nurses Association, Jammu and Kashmir, Parveen Khan said the nurses have always been on the frontline to treat patients. “Many of the nurses associated with COVID Hospitals told me their families don’t want them to come home after duty hours. They literally wept before me,” she said.
Parveen noted that the nurses work in the same conditions as doctors. “The administration should ensure separate accommodation for nurses along with proper transportation and personal protection equipment,” she added.
General Secretary, Post Graduate Nurses Association J&K, Javaid Ahmad Mir said the theme around this year’s world health day gives the opportunity to celebrate this workforce as one of the most valuable resources of the country.
“Despite huge challenges, we will continue to serve our community with pride,” Ahmad said.
Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education Jammu and Kashmir, Atal Dullo said the health administration is in the process of identifying separate accommodation for all nursing staff and technicians who are associated with isolation wards.
“They will soon be provided accommodation either in the hospitals or local hotels,” he said.