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Year after J-K floods, Valley's hospitals now beacons of hope

Situated on a low-lying area with high water table, Srinagar's GB Pant Hospital, popularly known as Children's Hospital, was among the worst-hit during the September 2014 floods that ravaged the Kashmir Valley.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2015 12:19 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times
Kashmir floods,A year after Kashmir floods,GB Pant Hospital
The new-look ground floor of Srinagar's GB Pant Hospital that opened a year after the Kashmir floods. (Abid Bhat/HT Photo)

Situated on a low-lying area with high water table, Srinagar's GB Pant Hospital, popularly known as Children's Hospital, was among the worst-hit during the September 2014 floods that ravaged the Kashmir Valley.

As the Jhelum waters came gushing in, two of its floors were submerged completely and three children under critical care could not make it to the 92 Base Hospital of the army in the nearby Badami Bagh cantonment. The army hospital, where most of the children were shifted during the floods, had registered 10 casualties.

After the floods, it had taken weeks to make the top pediatric hospital's two upper floors functional. A year later, the Children's Hospital will finally restart its ground floor - which has been given a complete makeover - on the anniversary of the floods.

New beds and colourful cartoon characters on its newly tiled walls will help flush out painful memories as well as the stench and filth left by the floodwaters. Children, who will come to the outpatient department (OPD), will have an LCD TV beaming Doraemon shows.

Lessons learnt

"We were sitting like lame ducks in front of the mighty waters. But after it, we have risen stronger. It has taught us to have our disaster management plan ready so that no critical lives are lost," says Dr Shafqat Khan, medical superintendent.

All the life-support and diagnostic equipment, like dopplers and ultra-sound machines, have been retro-fitted on the upper floors. The power backup system too has been upgraded to keep functioning during natural calamities. From just a set of power generators, the hospital now has five on different floors to ensure uninterrupted power supply if the lower floors ever come under water.

The much-needed sewerage treatment plant (STP) has also come up after the worst floods to hit Kashmir in half a century.

The hospital says there were no casualties because of the floods.

"The three children, who died, were critically ill. Such deaths happen even during normal times," said hospital authorities.

A new-look ground floor of the GB Pant Hospital. (Abid Bhat/HT Photo)

Candlelight surgeries

Located right on the banks of Jhelum, the Lal Ded Hospital too found itself struggling as would be mothers and
new-born children, some of whom were pre-term and kept under incubators, were among its patients when the floods came.

As the Jhelum burst its banks and flooded the hospital's blood bank, generators, equipment and medicine store, it also snapped its road link completely.

Here too, two critically-ill children died. They would not have survived even in normal times, say doctors.

The hospital, which specialises in maternity and neo-natal care, found itself dealing with six deliveries amid raging floods, two of them through C-section operations which were performed under candlelight.

"When a mother goes in labour, you cannot delay the delivery. The head of thedepartment, along with a team of doctors, performed the surgeries under candlelight. We had shifted all patients to the first floor. Each newborn in critical care was given a small oxygen cylinder," says Lal Ded hospital's medical superintendent Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Rather, who stayed put with his staff and patients for three days till help finally came in.

"Some hospital staff brought us food from the mess located in the other building through ropes. For three days, the staff and patients had rice, sugar and saline water. But how long could we have carried on this way? So we made red flags out of curtains to attract the attention of helicopters swirling over us. We even made a boat out of wood lying in the hospital to reach out for help," adds Rather.

The hospital lost no time and kept functioning from its maternity wing at Sanat Nagar and a ward of the bone and joint hospital. A battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police started cleaning up the four-feet deep silt that the flood waters had left and by September 19 the hospital switched on its lights to tell the city it was up and running.

Since the new building, which was inaugurated weeks before the floods, was largely unaffected, by September 29 it resumed all its services. The ground floor of the old building, which was flooded now sports new tiles and like the Children's Hospital, Lal Ded too has learnt its lessons.

"The blood bank and all high-end equipment have been shifted to the first floor. There are more power generators and some have also been installed at higher floors. We have ensured there is an extra back-up for emergency services," adds Rather.

Read:A year after deluge, still that sinking feeling in J-K

First Published: Sep 07, 2015 11:54 IST