Is Covid-19 Overshadowing Regular Treatment in Kashmir?

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Closing OPDs for routine checkups and starting telephonic consultations for the same might have been hailed as a proactive medical move recently, but for many patients it’s a ‘lost in translation and transportation’ cause.

 Auqib Javeed

Bandipore: As cops and vigilantes strictly man streets and freely flex their muscles on violators, Mohammad Shaban makes multiple scared road-trips to look for an opening to embark on a desperate journey.

Even as this Sumlar, Bandipora native manages to clear roadblocks, he fails to secure his much-needed appointment with a family doctor — now deputed on the Covid-19 health emergency service in Kashmir.

No soon did the pandemic arrive in Kashmir to chagrin of the lockdown-hardened community, the major health centres were turned into the Covid-19 quarters.

The overwhelming situation forced authorities to shut OPDs in many major hospitals and dedicate their men and machinery in Covid-19 fight back.

The shut healthcare services, however, has compounded Shaban’s woes.

“My wife is a heart patient,” he said. “She’s being treated at SKIMS Soura since years. The doctors know her history of ailment. I fail to understand that how can a new doctor treat her.”

With many doctors donning the gears of Covid-19 combatants currently, the likes of Shaban with a family ailing history are finding themselves at the crossroads of the health crisis.

The Sumlar man, however, isn’t alone.

At frontier Kupwara, where the latest Indo-Pak LoC fireworks have threatened to derail the uneasy calm, the locals in absence OPDs are facing the major brunt.

Even as patients suffering from cancer, kidney ailments, diabetes, asthma, are being treated in the major Kashmir hospitals but many people complained lack of public transport due to lockdown.

“People suffer from a lot of life-threatening diseases here,” said Ruqaya Jabeen, a young homemaker from Kupwara. “They need regular checkups and follow-ups. How is it possible to treat every ailment over a phone call?”

Jabeen’s anguish is directed at the government order, wherein it asked people to consult the doctors online.

As per the guidelines issued by the government, general public can take telephonic consultation by the medium of text message (SMS), Whatsapp message, voice call as well as video call.

Many faraway residents, who can’t even dial phone numbers, find it difficult to contact doctors online. Even as some calls are being made, many people complaint that ‘numbers usually come busy’.

“A visit to doctor in any case is must, as remote diagnosis can backfire,” said Zaffar Khan, a resident of Kupwara.

“All of us understand that we’re in the middle of the pandemic, but then we can’t let it overshadow other ailments.”

Earlier as the Covid-19 positive cases surfaced in the valley, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir PK Pole ordered closing of OPDs in tertiary care hospitals. Such health facility was solely dedicated to Emergency and Covid-19 cases.

The Covid-19 scare has also forced the doctors to close their private clinics, which has further added to the miseries of the ailing people.

“The current scenario of the hospitals is even hampering the critical chemo-radio therapy of cancer patients and dialysis of kidney patients,” says a health official on request of anonymity.

“As the Covid-19 has taken the center-stage, the other ailments are clearly receiving a lesser attention.”

In Srinagar, many people battling chronic health conditions are facing the hardest time of their life amid harsh restrictions.

“I’m suffering from Stage-I Asthma,” said Dilshada Zargar, a resident of Srinagar’s Lalbazar area. “I used to get the treatment at CD Hospital but with lockdown and no OPDs, I’m unable to get the further treatment.”

Amid the health crisis, the people demand that government should come up the better options—other than distributing telephone numbers—for the other ailing lot ‘left in lurch’ amid Covid-19.

However, asserting that OPD closure was must to contain the spread of Covid-19, Dr. Saleem Khan told Kashmir Observer that major hospitals in the Srinagar are treating the other patients who need the emergency treatment.

“It’s not like that we have shut the doors for other patients,” said Dr Khan, a government appointed Nodal Officer for Covid-19. “But it’s better if people manage the small ailments at home.”

But the problem, as the Sumlar man, Shaban said, is beyond managing ‘the small ailments at home’ or dialing doctor numbers.

“It’s to leave some room for the treatment of other ailments as well,” he said.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib did his Masters in Convergent Journalism from Central University of Kashmir (CUK) and is currently working with Kashmir Observer as Special Correspondent. He has been contributing stories for the newspaper especially on Politics, Security & defence and has a keen interest in Environment.

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