Keeping Corona away from psychiatric patients in Kashmir

In Kashmir, medical staff at the Psychiatric Hospitals are going to the extra mile to keep the patients safe from Corona virus. Read how the fight with corona is going on...

It is 7:30 in the morning. Tabasum, a staff nurse working in Kashmir’s lone Psychiatry hospital – associated hospital of GMC Kashmir – located in Badamwari area of Srinagar, enters hospital after spending 20 days in home quarantine as she was tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Wearing proper COVID gear she visits her patients in psychiatric ward with hand sanitizer in her pocket. Tabasum has brought biscuits, candies and chocolates for patients to wish them good morning and make them ready for breakfast.

Unfamiliar with the prevailing situation outside the Psychiatry hospital, the patients admitted in the hospital have no idea of virus and prevailing situation. They are living in their own fantasy without being aware of what the outside world is going through.

This poses a big challenge for Tabasum and other nursing staff and paramedics working in the hospital as they have to take all measures to ensure proper hygiene among these patients to keep the virus at bay from them.

“I have brought your favorite candies and biscuits, come on and get ready for the breakfast that is waiting for you in the hall. Later each one of you will get their favorite thing,” Tabasum lures the patients for the breakfast, many of whom are still in their bed.

Tabasum says these patients sometimes obey but most of the times they don’t, the staff dealing with them have to be tricky to take care of their health.

“Since the outbreak of COVID, we have restricted chronic patients from roaming in the hospital ground because they don’t know about social distancing, wearing face mask, and using sanitizers for cleaning their hands regularly. Nursing staff sometimes accompany them to go in the hospital premises to make them feel fresh. We keep sanitizers in pocket to clean their hands regularly and we lure them to use sanitizers. Sometimes they laugh at us because they have no idea what sanitizer is,” Tabasum told The THIP Media.

Like Tabasum, there are at least 34 nursing staff working in the hospital and most of them were tested positive for COVID in the last few months.

“When I was tested positive and was in home quarantine, other nursing staff was working in the hospital because we cannot leave these patients alone. We have made groups and worked in shifts. If one group will get infected, others will handle the patients. I have even infected my family as well but I continue to do my job after my RTPCR came negative,” Tabasum says with a smile.

Fayaz Ahmad, a health worker in the hospital said that there are around 30 chronic patients who are in hospital from very long time and have been vaccinated by the hospital authorities.

“Many patients got infected this year despite the fact that doctors and nursing staff have left no stone unturned to keep COVID away from the patients. Once the patients show symptoms they undergo RAT or RTPCR, however, they don’t allow you to take sample directly. We have to use a play way method to get samples from them. After testing positive, we have kept separate wards for the positive patients. The staff uses proper gear to deal with positive patients. We have to keep watch on them when they have their meals so that they will not put hands on other’s plate or snatch food from them,” Ahmad said.

‘For chronic patients’ health,’ Fayaz says, ‘the entire responsibility is of the medical staff.’

Dr Junaid Nabi, Consultant Psychiatrist at Government Medical College, informs, ‘In today’s difficult situation, it is very challenging to handle chronic patients because they have no insights about the prevailing situation. We doctors, nursing staff, and paramedic have huge responsibility of health and hygiene of such patients. Because COVID doesn’t exist for them, they have no knowledge of virus. From the very first year of pandemic, we have made a daily routine of these patients to clean them every day. Use hand sanitizers. This has now become a habit for them.”

However, he said, face mask is a piece of useless cloth for them, they don’t keep mask on the face. “But it is our duty to see the alternative for it and for that we do not allow them to see visitors or their family member on regular basis.”

Dr Junaid further says, “Like other associated hospitals of GMC, Psychiatry hospital administration has not stopped to see Out Patient Department (OPD). We cannot say no to patients suffering from mental health crises. We use proper gear and regularly sanitize our hands to contain COVID from infecting them.”  

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