‘I came back from the death bed’
On July 1, Dr Mir Mushtaq, who is posted at District Hospital Pulwama came back home from the hospital after long duty hours.
That evening, he had felt feverish, left him anxious.
“I took it as a normal fever. The next day, I again had fever. I decided to go to the hospital. I found some COVID symptoms. Immediately, my sample was taken which returned positive,” said the 45-year-old doctor who has recovered from the novel coronavirus.
Initially, the doctor was admitted at the Pulwama hospital for two days.
After falling seriously ill with COVID-19, his condition deteriorated.
He was shifted to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar for further treatment where he was on oxygen support for 12 days and survived.
“I was sick. I wasn’t able to move out, not even able to go to the washroom,” he said.
The doctor, a resident of Budgam, said he is lucky to be alive.
“This is a very serious disease which can have far-reaching consequences. I have come back from the death bed. I am highly indebted to one and all for their support,” he said.
The war against the pandemic is being fought in hospitals around the world while doctors and paramedics on the frontline here face long hours and huge workload.
In Kashmir, until June 11, at least 160 doctors and 286 paramedics have been infected by coronavirus since April and the tally is going up day by day.
Two doctors one from Bandipora and another from Pampore have succumbed to the virus in the Valley.
Mushtaq said that the problem is that there is a shortage of doctors in J&K and exposure level of medicos is higher than other parts of the world.
“There is no break, no breather,” he said.
“We have to protect our people. The problem is that our load is too high this time. Working for long hours is a problem,” he said.
As per health officials, the first paramedic in Kashmir was infected by the virus in Baramulla district on April 7 followed by a doctor in the same district on April 21.
The doctor opines that the number of doctors and paramedics should be increased in order to put them on shifts that would decrease exposure levels in hospitals.
What he observed at SKIMS Srinagar during his treatment is quite contrary.
“At SKIMS, I saw many patients who would be managed at home or are asymptomatic had occupied beds which is again a problem,” he said.
The doctor said that the need of the hour is to create more oxygen beds in hospitals.
“Also there should be some kind of communication channels between the doctors and COVID patients. Because you don’t expect a doctor to come now and then,” he said.
In District Hospital Pulwama alone, six doctors and over 15 paramedics have been infected by the virus and are at high exposure compared to other hospitals here.
“The exposure level of doctors and paramedics is high. Serving for long is a problem. Otherwise, our doctors are battling in hospitals to save people,” he said.
The paramedical staff in the hospitals too have their share of what they call "exhausting task" which is adding to their mental pressure.
For Asifa (name changed), a nurse at Chest Disease Hospital Srinagar every day is a day of risk.
She said the pandemic changed the way they used to work.
She said when she goes back to home in the evening in the hospital bus with other staff members, they hardly follow any social distancing norm.
“There is no social distancing when we are in the hospital bus. Though we wear masks, there is always a risk of catching the infection,” she said.
Like other healthcare workers, she said the pandemic has changed her life and the work culture at the hospital, where coronavirus patients are being treated.
She said before COVID, they used to manage the workload easily as there was no risk factor involved in hospital wards.
“Today the risk is near you and you could be infected. We are overstretched and stressed. We face mental stress. To be in a hospital is an exhausting task,” she said.
Owing to the shortage of manpower, she said they are facing long duty hours.
So far, J&K has reported 490 causalities to coronavirus while nearly 26,000 people have been infected by the virus.