Raising concern about transmission of coronavirus in Kashmir hospitals following a doctor testing positive for the virus, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Wednesday called for mass screening of healthcare workers for the novel virus.“That would ensure the safety of patients,” said DAK PresidentDr Nisar ul Hassan who is also Associate Professor of Medicine at GMC Srinagar.“Mass screening of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff by antibody testing should be given the highest priority to prevent hospitals from becoming hotspots of disease transmission,” he said.“With 78 percent of coronavirus cases in Kashmir valley showing no symptoms, it becomes vitally important to screen medical personnel to protect patients from asymptomatic transmission,” Dr Nisar said adding that “asymptomatic medical staff have the potential to transmit the virus to patients who are vulnerable to complications and even death.”Dr Nisar said patients are very aware of the risk and are staying at home due to justified fears that they could contract the virus by attending hospitals. They are too scared to go to hospitals.
“The situation appears to be causing fewer emergency calls from patients who have suffered heart attacks or strokes, potentially fuelling rise in non-coronavirus fatalities.Those with other medical conditions are also deterred from seeking medical help,” he said“As a result, salvageable conditions are not being treated,” he added.Dr Nisar said unlike PCR test which is used to diagnose an active COVD-19 infection, antibody testing willidentify which healthcare workers were exposed to the virus in the past and have now developed antibodies against the virus. The presence of antibodies in blood means they are immune to the virus.“If the healthcare worker has developed immunity, he or she can safely go to work and patients will also have the confidence to go to hospitals,” he said.“We will be in this situation for another month, probably more. We need to test staff quickly for immunity to allow themwork without the fear of infection and ensure safe environment in hospitals for patient care,” said Dr Nisar.(KNT)