SRINAGAR: The day she was shifted to Lal Ded (LD) Hospital for a Caesarean-section delivery, 32-year-old Aisha (name changed) from south Kashmir has been put on high antibiotics, for the infections she suddenly contracted here.
“No doctor is telling us clearly about my daughter’s condition. She has been complaining of severe body ache and high fever since Thursday. We are concerned for her well-being,” said her mother, waiting outside one of the labour rooms where Aisha was taken despite her illness, because she had developed labour pains.
Though a physician from Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital was managing her on-call and senior gynaecologists at LD Hospital said they were confident of saving the child, they also said that hospital-acquired infection can be life-threatening for the mother.
Aisha’s mother said that doctors at the hospital told her that the antibiotics needed were not available in the hospital. “We had to get them from the open market,” she said.
An on-duty Registrar at the hospital said of Aisha’s condition, “We had asked the family to wait for some days so that her infection subsides. But we couldn’t wait any more as she has already developed labour pain.”
LD Hospital is Kashmir’s lone specialty maternity hospital. But according to doctors here, the labour rooms of the hospital are breeding grounds for infection, due to crowding by patients’ attendants.
The registrar said that the hospital’s labour rooms have become camping sites for families.
“Every patient is accompanied by four to five attendants in the labour room. That means a huge crowd of 500 people inside the critical area,” she said.
“During their time in hospital, every second patient contracts sepsis, which in many cases gets transmitted to the child also. Something needs to be done about this,” she added.
Patients also face a life threat due to the possibility of cross-infection, as the authorities have failed to adopt an effective infection control mechanism at the hospital.
Sources told Kashmir Reader that the hospital’s Infection Control Committee is non-functional and that the hospital even lacks soaps, washrooms and sterilised gloves in high-risk areas like dressing rooms, casualty ward, and operating theatres.
“Control of attendants is most difficult to manage in this hospital as the birth of a child is an important social event for families. They come and camp in the hospital corridors,” said Medical Superintendent Dr Shabir Seddiqui.
He said that many critical wards and labour rooms have been declared as restricted areas, but it makes no difference. “People don’t respect the sanctity of the critical areas. They are impatient and don’t listen to repeated requests,” he said.
There are more than 90 beds in the labour room, including Recovery and High Dependency wards. But the occupancy is more than the capacity.
“The patient-load sometimes reaches up to 130. Add to it the number of attendants and managing critical patients becomes almost impossible,” said another administrator.
An anaesthetist posted at the hospital said that patients were at risk of contracting infections in the absence of proper methods used to sanitise dressing and surgical equipment.
“The hospital is very casual about managing cleanliness in labour rooms, casualty wards, and OTs. No critical area has proper sterilisation units,” he said.
Deadly diseases like sepsis, gangrene, pneumonia and hepatitis are common in the hospital, which makes the situation worse for women post-delivery, he said.
“Patients usually acquire infections during dressing and while delivering babies, as aseptic techniques are missing in the most vulnerable places like labour rooms, OTs, post-operative wards, and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The rush of attendants only worsens the situation,” the anaesthetist said.
Dr Seddiqui said the hospital had sent a proposal to the government to recruit dedicated staff for hospital security.
“Security staff should not be outsourced. They usually are neither answerable nor accountable. We have requested for recruitment of a separate contingent of guards for the hospital,” Dr Seddiqui said.