Contact tracing going on scientifically, sample collection being taken to doorsteps

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SRINAGAR: At a time when the world is grappling with deadly coronavirus pandemic, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has established timely COVID-19 hospitals—which are working round the clock and performing sample testing swiftly.

Director, Health Services Kashmir, Dr Samir Mattoo said that the Government established eight hospitals in Kashmir and three in Jammu—exclusively for COVID-19 cases.

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“All our eight COVID-19 hospitals are performing well and we have been able to reach out to the people with some sort of relief amid this healthcare crisis,” Dr Mattoo said.

“We have also directed our staff to remain on 24X7 shifts for any exigency,” he added.

Appealing general masses, Dr Mattoo said that “With Coronavirus declared as Pandemic by the World Health Organization, it becomes imperative for all the citizens to cooperate with the authorities to prevent and contain its outbreak,” he said.

He said that the Government has taken a slew of measures in terms of screening of people particularly inbound travelers, surveillance & quarantine, isolation of suspects and is continuously monitoring the situation on a minute to minute basis.

”People shouldn’t panic, but at the same time the general public is requested to act and adhere to the advisories and Dos & Don’ts issued by the Health Department,” Dr Mattoo said.

Upgrading Manpower

The Director said the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir is imparting specialized trainings to the 52 lab technicians who are undergoing training at the JLNM Hospital. They have been directed to study the Red Zones and Buffer Zones and launch the mass contact tracing. The staff has been equipped with the PPEs and designated mobile vans for contact tracing.

They have been trained to perform the donning, doffing, while as with the help of Mobile Designated Vans (MDV) —the healthcare professionals have been able to increase the scientific sampling and testing of suspects across Kashmir region.

“Earlier, we were able to collect 70 samples, now we go for upto 150 a day,” he said. “We are also waiting for some equipment and important reagents from ICMR. We have so far got seven sophisticated machines for testing and we will be again procuring few more,” he said. “We can together defeat this virus. This needs equal cooperation from people,” Dr Mattoo said. “People can help Government to contain the incidence of COVID-19,” he said.

He said that all the COVID-19 hospitals were performing well and healthcare workers and professionals were now going house to house for sample collection in red zone areas.

The Director has conducted visits across all Kashmir districts amid pandemic. He said that he recently visited Hajin area in north Kashmir’s district Bandipora—which saw some positive cases.

He said as a precautionary measure, people are requested not to visit hospitals unnecessarily or in case of minor ailments. Besides, it is also advised to limit the number of attendants accompanying the patient to maximum one person in case of extremely sick, emergency patients.

Dr. Mattoo said that hundreds of treatment beds and additional quarantine beds have also been earmarked, besides adequate capacity to handle any possible rush. He said that though the number of COVID-19 cases in Kashmir is surging day by day, if people take all precautionary measures, it would break the chain and prevent it from further spread.

Dr Mattoo said that so far hospitals across Kashmir are equipped with the required equipment and necessary interventions. “Not every coronavirus patient will require a ventilator. All they need is a separate or isolation ward and we’ve enough of them,” he said, adding that Department of Health Services was monitoring the situation very closely.

Distress Lines

Dr Mattoo informed that the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir (DHSK) also constituted a team of District Nodal officers for COVID-19, who are closely working in their respective districts to assess the situation. He said besides this 24X7 social media Distress Lines were established through which one could contact DHSK staff and doctors for any expert opinion.

“We have created a full proof mechanism where people can contact us and we will provide them basic opinions about keeping themselves happy and healthy,” said Dr Qazi Haroon, who is also OSD with DHSK.

Dr Mattoo said that the DHSK has witnessed a drastic progress and improvements in terms of major health indicators when compared nationally since half a decade. He said efforts are underway and a well-defined road map & action plan was put in to intervene so that the peripheral health care deliverance is upgraded on modern lines. He said that primary short term intervention is also provided for the skill enhancement of the health personnel working in different hospitals.

Dr Mattoo said that patient feedback system has been started on regular basis so to bring in accountability in the system. He said, besides this Centralized Oxygen Manifold, Bed side Oxygen delivery has started in peripheral hospitals of Kashmir Division with District Baramulla and this is to be followed by DH Anantnag, DH Bandipora, DH Budgam, DH Kulgam & JLNM hospital during the current financial year. He said that several steps are underway to provide Tele Medicine (use of Telecommunications and Information Technology to provide clinical health care from a distance) facilities.

Dr Mir Mushtaq, senior consultant with DHSK, currently posted at District Hospital, Pulwama said that at this critical stage the seriousness invested in staying at home will decide the direction. “We are working on the front line. Field teams are continuously screening persons in red and people also need to give them a breather,” Dr Mir said.

It may be recalled here that the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir has been proactive in innovating and is keeping the Administrative Department aware of the evolving requirements of healthcare service delivery mechanisms and contemporary means by which the health setup of Kashmir Division can keep the pace with the expectations of the public.

The healthcare officials urged the general public to stay indoors, strictly implement social distancing measures, disclose recent travel history to COVID-19 affected countries and report any contact with positive cases voluntarily to flatten the COVID-19 curve.