Srinagar: With the death of a 65-year-old man from Hyderpora in Srinagar, Kashmir reported its first coronavirus death on Thursday.
The patient's medical reports came back positive on March 24, eight days after he returned from Delhi where he participated in a 'Tableeghi Ijlas at Nizamuddin', an event attended by several foreigners.
His is a case of confusion, negligence and casual approach by doctors as well as his family members.
An inquiry report by the divisional commissioner of Kashmir has found the patient had a lot of time “to spread the infection due to the negligence of doctors and by not following isolation and quarantine protocol”. A final report will be submitted by the additional commissioner in two days.
The man visited at least four hospitals in Kashmir before being tested and isolated. He visited Andaman and Nicobar Islands in February and returned to Srinagar; after about 20 days, he went to Delhi on March 5 when he attended the event at Nizamuddin. It is here that he reportedly came in contact with foreigners participating in a preachers’ congregation.
On March 8, he went to Uttar Pradesh from where he came to Jammu. Here, too, he participated in a number of religious gatherings before returning to Srinagar on March 16. There, he stayed at home for a night and then left for Sopore town, where he had another home. After spending a few days there, his symptoms for coronavirus turned severe with fever and chest problems.
The man visited a doctor, who prescribed some medicines, and came back to Srinagar. Even as his problems aggregated, he took part in Friday prayers but put on a mask, following his relatives’ advice. However, he had to leave the prayers midway and come back home as his pain worsened.
His family members took him to the SKIMS Medical College-Hospital, Bemina, in Srinagar where he was declared a COVID-19 suspect after being checked by a doctor. But instead of isolating him immediately, the doctors shifted the patient to SKIMS, Soura, in Srinagar.
Sources said the negligence on the doctors' part started here. The hospital authorities let him go to SKIMS in Soura on his own "without informing the district/ divisional/police authorities".
There, the patient was let go and advised to quarantine himself at home. When asked why this was done despite a clear mention of COVID-19 symptoms in his report from SKIMS in Bemina, the medical superintendent of SKIMS in Soura Dr Farooq A Jan said the patient did not show his hospital card from the other institute. He also did not come in an ambulance as per protocol, he added.
“Also, there were no guidelines at the time to test patients for coronavirus who had no foreign travel history. The patient was offered an admission in the general ward of the hospital as he had pneumonia, but his relatives refused to pay heed. That is when home quarantine was advised,” Dr Jan said.
A relative of the deceased has written on social media that despite pleas, a senior doctor at SKIMS, Soura, had refused to test the man for COVID-19.
The next day, when the man’s condition deteriorated, he was taken to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar where doctors referred him to the Chest Diseases Hospital in the city as he was a coronavirus suspect. It was here finally that the man was quarantined.
Soon after, tests were done and his samples tested positive on March 24. He died two days later. Five of his contacts from Hajin Area in Bandipora district tested positive on March 25. Another of his contact was confirmed to be infected by coronavirus on March 26 in Rajouri. The doctor whom he had visited in Sopore has tested negative.
Eleven staff members of SKIMS, Bemina, including two doctors, have been quarantined. The chain that may have begun in Delhi could have been broken in Srinagar, but for the timely action of doctors and family members.
Screening of patients at the only airport in Srinagar has not been proper till now. On March 16, News18 highlighted the issue of people with foreign travel history entering the city through the airport’s VIP gate without any check.
That very day, the first Covid-19 patient case landed in Kashmir from Saudi Arabia allegedly through VIP gate. However, the allegation was denied by her bureaucrat relative.
The Director of state Health Services, Dr Sameer Mattoo, said there was no arrangement for scanning in the VIP lounge.
There have been reports that at least 400 people are hiding their foreign travel history in the state. Of them, about 150 people have been traced and quarantined by the health officials.
On Friday, J&K Director General of Police Dilbag Singh said nearly 1,200 people, who hid their travel history to coronavirus-affected countries, have been identified and sent to quarantine facilities.
"We have launched a massive operation to trace and shift people with travel history to the affected countries to quarantine. We have setup control rooms and appealed to people to give information about those people," he said.
Singh said over 400 calls have been received about people who hid their travel history and escaped screening for coronavirus.
A spacious centre has been set up in Kathua to send all travellers entering Jammu and Kashmir via Lakhanpur to quarantine.
In the wake of lockdown, the police has reached to the people with ration and medicines, the DGP said.
(With inputs from PTI)