J&K has the lowest mortality and morbidity figures: SKIMS director
SKIMS director AG Ahangar says the institute has conducted around 80,000 tests so far, which is higher than any lab in the country and is prepared for any eventualityUpdated: Jun 17, 2020 17:45 IST
With the number of Covid-19 cases surging in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), HT’s Mir Ehsan talks to Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) director AG Ahangar about the UT’s testing rate, health infrastructure, community transmission and patient care. Edited excerpts:
How is the situation in J&K vis-à-vis Covid-19? Is there cause for alarm?
So far, Covid-19 has claimed around 3.5 lakh lives and infected around 7.6 million people globally. The mortality rate is over 10% in some European countries. Our region has also been affected, which is alarming given the population density and non-availability of an effective curative medicine or vaccine.
You recently said J&K was in community transmission mode. What precautions should be followed?
As per data collected over the last month, transmission in J&K is not just on account of foreign travellers, migrants, or those with contact history. The public should strictly adhere to government directives and expert medical advises as well as guidelines issued by health-care agencies from time-to-time, including the use of protective gear, observing social distancing and hand hygiene. They should avoid social and religious gatherings.
Is our health infrastructure sufficient to tackle a surge in Covid-19 cases, especially in J&K?
Our infrastructure is far better than the national average, both in the public and private sector. J&K ranks first in testing, contact tracing, surveillance and treatment of patients. It has the lowest mortality, morbidity figures till date. The positive prevalence in J&K is 1.68%, a mortality rate of 1.62% mortality rate and 0.73% hospital admissions.
We have already crossed 5,000 cases and reported around 60 deaths. Is this a big number considering our population ratio?
If we look at the entire J&K population, the figures are minuscule. What matters is the doubling time, incidence of co-morbidities, extremities of age and immunocompromised patient population. Fortunately, ours society does not have the concept of old age homes, which has been the primary source of anxiety world over.
Are we testing enough and what is the role of SKIMS in the testing and patient care?
We have taken a lead role in testing the population for Covid-19. SKIMS has conducted around 80,000 tests so far, which is higher than any lab in the country, an overall incidence of 13.172 per million population. We are quite ahead of Delhi. We have tested around 12,000 people in three days and around 5,000 people in a single day, which speaks volumes for the robust mechanism in place. We have dedicated a separate and exclusive Covid-19 specific infectious diseases block with a capacity of 50 beds and all facilities.
SKIMS is the biggest hospital in J&K. Do you think other areas were neglected or patient care suffered?
SKIMS continues to run outpatient department services both on campus and through virtual clinics and telemedicine besides running efficient teaching programs. Patient care in all these spheres, both Covid and non-Covid, continues to be distinctive.
How many patients with Covid-19 in SKIMS need ventilator support?
Most patients recover of their own as their immunity systems fight off the infection. In some cases medical management is needed, wherein ventilator support is a cornerstone. Patients who have moderate to severe symptoms with unstable parameters need supportive management and at times high-flow oxygen, ventilator support or advanced life support in the form of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) or lung transplant. In a well-organised and developed patient care centre like SKIMS, high-flow oxygen and supportive measures can be the game changers whereas ventilator support is used only when unavoidable. We have sufficient ventilators available and will be purchasing more to tackle any eventuality.
Any suggestions for bringing down Covid-19 numbers in the Valley?
WHO directives and governmental standard operating procedures should be followed. One should understand that doctors and paramedics are fighting the war against the coronavirus with sensibility and strategy.