SRINAGAR: Doctors and paramedics in conflict-torn Kashmir are used to working in tough situations, but the scenes encountered in the first two weeks of the ongoing uprising may be difficult to forget for most of them working in the peripheral hospitals in south Kashmir.
At District Hospital Anantnag, which received a highest number of the injury cases in south Kashmir, many doctors, particularly surgeons, had to stay in the hospital round the clock for the first two weeks following the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani when the entire district was on boil.
“I had never witnessed such a chaotic situation while dealing with the injury cases before,” Dr Azad Malik, a surgeon who has performed 50 minor and major surgeries in the last two months, told Kashmir Reader. “The situation we witnessed in those two weeks was really grim. You can imagine the gravity of situation from the fact that none of us was able to go home even for a second.”
“One day,” he continued, “The number of injured brought to the hospital was so high that I had to conduct at least 13 surgeries within 24 hours without any break.”
Almost every hour, the hospital used to receive at least 20 to 25 injury cases accompanied by four times the number of attendants, Dr Malik said.
“What can you do when 20 to 25 injured cases are brought to the hospital at a time, and each one of them is accompanied by four to five persons?” he said.
District Hospital Anantnag alone has received more than 350 civilians injured by the government forces in parts of south Kashmir in the last two months.
All but 13 of 48 persons with pellets injuries in eyes had their retinas damaged and needed to be the shifted to SMHS Hospital for specialised medical attention, records show.
Dr Malik blamed the use of pellets for the “disastrous” situation.
“We didn’t have much choice but to consider on priority the cases that had some chance of survival. In those 15 days, we operated upon the patients whom we thought could be saved; the others had to wait,” he said.
Another doctor, who didn’t wish to be named, said that the use of pellet ammunition on the protesters was responsible for “creating havoc”.
“I conducted at least 30 surgeries, major as well as minor, in the first five days (of the uprising). And those were not only the patients hit by bullets or pellets; several of them had been thrashed by the government forces,” he said.
“I remember two men whose spleen had got ruptured due to hard beating they received from the government forces. The number of deaths in 2010 was more, but the situation was not so grim that year,” the doctor said.
He, however, appreciated the role played by local volunteers in handling the crowds at a time when dozens of injured were being taken to the hospital.
“Many lives were saved because of the efforts of the volunteers who themselves used to receive the injured from ambulances and take them to the causality or theater. Volunteers never allowed the crowd to get inside the hospital. They managed the things nicely alongside the Para-medics. And it is because of their efforts that many lives could be saved,” said a Para-medic requesting anonymity.
A doctor posted at District Hospital Pulwama said that the scenes of the injured people crying and waiting for treatment during first ten days will never be erased from his memory.
“2016 will be unforgettable experience in my medical career,” the doctor said.
At SDH Bijbehara, the doctors and paramedics have more horrific scenes to recount as they had to face wrath of the attendants as well as of the government forces.
“During the last two months, we have not been targeted only by the people accompanying the injured but by the forces as well for treating the injured,” a paramedic posted at the hospital shared on the condition of anonymity.
“Police and CRPF at least thrice entered the hospital and abused and harassed both the doctors and paramedics. Once, some injured youth were being treated inside and the forces entered the hospital, thrashing everyone who came in their way. I ran away and hid myself in the medical shop outside for half-an-hour,” he said.
The government forces have stopped harassing the medical staff after they staged a protest last month, he said, adding that the crowds continue to unruly.
“We continue to face the wrath of crowds whenever an injured person is brought to the hospital from any nearby area,” he said.