Medics barred from media interactions in Kashmir

Administration takes charge of private oxygen facilities

May 07, 2021 05:08 pm | Updated 05:08 pm IST - Srinagar:

Workers carry medical oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 patients, in Jammu, on Friday, May 7, 2021.

Workers carry medical oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 patients, in Jammu, on Friday, May 7, 2021.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has barred doctors dealing with COVID-19 patients in the valley’s hospitals from media interactions. It has also taken charge of all private oxygen-generating facilities in Srinagar and is regulating supply to NGOs.

“All chief medical officers, medical superintendents, block medical officers of the Kashmir division are enjoined upon to issue instructions to the staff to desist from media interactions, as it has been seen that contradictory and confusing messages are being circulated, which misinforms the public and creates unnecessary and avoidable panic,” Dr. Mushtaq Rather, Director, Health Services, said in an order issued on Thursday evening.

The order warned of “strict disciplinary action against anyone indulging is such behaviour”.

The order comes at at time when the number of deaths and fresh daily positive cases are showing an upward trend in J&K, which currently has 39,628 active positive coronavirus cases, straining the health infrastructure. This week, there have been around 50 deaths on a daily basis, pushing the death toll to 2,510 since the pandemic broke out.

In a separate order, Muhammad Aijaz, Chairman, District Disaster Management Authority, directed all the oxygen manufacturing units within Srinagar “to supply oxygen refills only to the designated hospitals and clinics”.

“It has become necessary to manage the flow of medical oxygen to the designated heath institutions. There were several reports of black marketing of medical oxygen,” Mr. Aijaz said.

He said supplies to private persons, societies and NGOs shall be made with the prior approval of the District Magistrate, Srinagar.

The order evoked criticism from NGOs and civil society groups in the Valley, fearing the decision is likely to impact oxygen-dependent COVID-19 patients being treated across the Valley.

However, Mr. Aijaz said the process was being streamlined to provide fair and equal access to the most needy patients. “A proper mechanism in place will ensure regular supply in a smooth manner,” he added.

Reacting to the order, National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah said, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Stopping the hoarding or black marketing of oxygen cylinders is a laudable goal. Preventing NGOs or making it tougher for them to help people get cylinders is dangerous. NGOs were working when the government was still in deep slumber.”

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