Former health minister Choudhary Lal Singh on Monday squarely blamed the UT administration for spiralling Covid deaths in Jammu region, especially Jammu district.
Jammu as of date has logged 1,067 Covid deaths — highest among all 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
During his tenure as the health minister from 2002 to 2004 in the Congress-PDP alliance, the “fiery leader” had brought the entire health department back on rails making its bureaucrats, superintendents, doctors, paramedics and other health staff accountable to work.
The erstwhile state had six health ministers in the past 20-25 years and they all hailed from Jammu. They were Pandit Mangat Ram Sharma, Suman Bhagat, Choudhary Lal Singh, Sham Lal Sharma, Bali Bhagat and Dr DK Manyal. It was Choudhary Lal Singh, who “disciplined” the entire health department.
Lal Singh said, “If you want to check deaths then bring transparency. Put up CCTV cameras in all Covid care centres, and government and private hospitals. This is my suggestion to the administration.”
“Hospitals from other districts in Jammu, which are referring Covid patients to GMC Jammu, should immediately stop this malpractice. There is no shortage of staff and beds in these hospitals,” he said.
“There could be some shortage of oxygen and equipment in district and sub-district hospitals, primary health centres and community health centres but we have posted qualified doctors there, who are experienced and better than the medical students at GMC Jammu,” he added.
“We have experienced and medically trained doctors in DHs, SDHs, PHCs and CHCs. Why are they referring patients to GMC Jammu?” he asked and called it an administrative lapse.
Singh also called government helpline numbers a hoax claiming that not even a single person got oxygen or medical help from them.
He questioned the administration what purpose the GMCs in Kathua, Doda and Rajouri are serving during the pandemic.
“Kashmir is a bit better than Jammu and they are more aware than us when it comes to Covid appropriate behaviour but major deaths that took place were due to unavailability of oxygen and ventilators,” he said.
GMC, Jammu is the only major referral hospital for all 10 districts of the region unlike Kashmir, which has four major referral hospitals.
GMC and associated hospitals Jammu (GMC&AH Jammu) has a total bed capacity of 967 beds and bed occupancy as of Monday was 386.
GMC principal and dean Dr Shashi Sudan said, “Going by bed occupancy, there is a marginal relief to medics and paramedics but we cannot lower our guard.”
Official data for last eight days (May 24 to 31) revealed that the UT recorded 19,844 Covid cases, 31,843 recoveries, 343 deaths of which 205 took place in Jammu and 138 in Kashmir.
The UT, till date, has logged 3,907 Covid deaths.
From May 8 to 18, Jammu recorded 435 Covid deaths as compared to 246 in Kashmir.
Between May 8 and 18, at least 681 people have lost their lives to Covid in J&K, of which 435 deaths took place in the Jammu division.