Corona related deaths in rural areas new worry for JK administration

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Jammu: Already faced with wide spread public criticism over lack of health infrastructure and senior doctors not attending COVID-19 positive patients admitted in hospitals here, the increasing number of cases of Coronavirus and deaths from it in far off rural areas of the UT’s Jammu division has become a new worry for the Jammu and Kashmir Government.

 Official sources admitted that spread of Corona virus in far off rural areas has come as a new headache for them, adding that of the 446 Corona related deaths reported in UT since May 12, 281 had taken place in Jammu division alone. This includes a sizeable number of COVID positive patients who lost their battle to the deadly virus in rural areas.

In this context, they pointed out that on Tuesday reportedly 71 Corona related deaths including 39 in Jammu division. Of these, fourteen people lost battle to the deadly virus in districts like Doda, Rajouri, Kathua and Udhampur of Jammu division.

On Monday also, the border Rajouri district had reported highest number of 11 deaths on Monday after 19 in Jammu district. Similarly, there were COVID related deaths also in other districts like Poonch (3) Kathua and Udhampur (2 each) including one in latter’s Ramnagar area.

With inadequate health infrastructure in rural areas, the patients there are reaching the hospital at district headquarters minimum 7-8 days after getting infected by the virus, a senior official said, adding that by then a major portion of their lungs is already damaged, a senior official said. To arrest the trend in rural areas, the administration has formed groups at panchayat levels to to promote among local populace have early vaccination, besides testing and reporting in case of any COVID related symptoms, he added.

However, the problem is that the UT doesn’t have enough vaccine to vaccinate all the people. This is evident from the fact that the much awaited vaccination drive for 18-45 age group, which was announced by UT’s Lt Governor Manoj Sinha over a fortnight ago, is yet to start at most places. 

And among those above 45 years age, only 59 per cent of the population have got the first dose. The UT on Tuesday got 70,000 to 80,000 doses which was far less than its daily requirement.  

Director General Immunization, Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman, however, said that Jammu and Kashmir was comparatively better placed as compared to many other states in the country. “We have completed vaccination of all the health care and front line workers in the UT, apart from covering 59 per cent of the population above 45 years,’’ he said, adding that it is above the national average which is around 32 per cent.

To a question, he admitted that the 59 per cent of the population above 45 years have been given only first dose of the vaccine. 

Another senior official, however, said that problem remain in respect to the vaccination of people in 18-45 years age group. Most of the vaccination centres across the UT are virtually defunct due to non-availability of vaccine, he said, adding that UT is even prepared to purchase it for this age group, but it is not getting it.

One of the officials associated with COVID mitigation measures said that apart from people not reaching the hospitals on time, there were other problems also inadequate health infrastructure to take care of those admitted. Even which kind of virus strain was affecting the people in Jammu division was not known as yet, he said.

While Dean and Principal of the Government Medical College and Associated Hospitals, Jammu, Dr Shahsi Sudan Sharma quoting a recent sequencing data analysis of COVID-19 positive cases received from NCDC, New Delhi said that B.1.617 variant is responsible for the recent surge in Jammu Division.

Meanwhile, taking note of the high mortality rate in Jammu, Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education Atal Dulloo has in a letter to GMC Jammu Principal asked her to ensure that senior doctors undertake frequent rounds of hospital wards to attend to the patients. 

Pointing out that “mortality rate in COVID positive patients has increased and there is need for reducing it by taking corrective measures,’’ Dulloo wrote “it is desirable that the senior Faculty members of the concerned departments of your institution be directed to increase their presence by making frequent rounds of Wards where the COVID positive patients are admitted so that such patients are properly looked after and treated which will help us in reducing the mortality rate”.

This followed widespread criticism by members of COVID positive patients from all Government hospitals including the GMC Jammu, Chest Diseases Hospital, Mother and Child Care (MC) Gandhi Nagar, Super Specialty etc that the senior doctors were not visiting at all the COVID Wards to examine the patients. “Only the already prescribed treatment is being given to all the patients without any examination,” they pointed out, adding Post Graduate students and nurses were attending the patients.
Even a senior dental doctor wrote in a WhatsApp Group of doctors complaining that no doctor is attending COVID patients in MCH Gandhi Nagar hospital. “If Principal GMC or Head of Department of Medicine GMC is a part of the group, it is my humble request to them to kindly make sure that your doctors make rounds and see the patients in the COVID Wards even in MCH Gandhi Nagar Jammu. Patients are really in bad conditions there and they need the monitoring of senior doctors to get proper treatment and care,” he added.
Pointing out that he has not seen any doctor coming out of their glass chambers in the MCH Gandhi Nagar to do the rounds, he further wrote that even after repeated personal requests to see the patient, none of the doctors come for check up. It is only the paramedics & Ward boys who are doing all sort of work there”.
Referring to ongoing efforts by UT administration to boost health infrastructure including installation of new oxygen generation plants, increasing the number of beds and recruiting more staff for taking care of COVID patients, many in the public said that what was required was not review of healthcare but surprise visits in Government hospitals by those at the helm of affairs to set the things right.