Everyone seemed in a hurry here. All the beds were occupied, even the trolley stretchers. Doctors at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) said they were witnessing an unprecedented situation, treating the large number of patients with serious bullet and pellet injuries amid protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
As the ambulances brought in more of the injured, the hospital staff ran to the entrance. With not many trollies available, many brought in the new patients in their arms.
Late Saturday evening, tear shells landed in the hospital compound, filling the emergency ward with smoke. Then policemen barged in looking for protesters. Two young men with pellet injuries were taken away by the police, a paramedic said.
For more than 36 hours, the operations theatres (OTs) in the hospital were running non-stop. More than 70 doctors manning the five theatres in the trauma unit were working without a break since the first causalities started to arrive at 10 am Saturday.
According to the state health department, there were more than 700 people with bullet and pellet injuries, most of them youths, admitted in Valley hospitals. This includes 100 in Anantnag, among whom 13 critical patients were referred to Srinagar; 210 in Pulwama, 25 critically wounded referred to Srinagar; 36 in Kulgam, 10 critical patients referred to Srinagar; and 54 in Baramulla, 15 of them referred to Srinagar. There were 91 seriously injured with bullets and pellets in SMHS hospital and 39 in Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, according to the health department.
Meanwhile, at SMHS hospital, the ophthalmology theatre worked at fever pitch. Dr Sajjad Khanday, an ophthalmologist, said he had never seen so many people with serious ocular injuries in a day. “The first patient (with eye injury) arrived at 2.30 pm (Saturday) and we are still busy. There are 35 seriously injured,” he told The Indian Express.
He said nine surgeons were taking turns. “We tried our best, but 22 to 24 of the patients could have profound and permanent effects on their eyesight. Fortunately, all these patients have pellet injuries in only one eye,” he added.
Khanday said the situation was similar in OTs across Emergency. “Such a situation affects everybody. It becomes personal for each of us. I strongly suggest that the use of pellet guns be stopped immediately because it is making young people blind,” he said.
A general surgeon said he had come out of the OT after 24 hours. “I couldn’t do it anymore. I was part of 10 serious surgeries since Saturday morning,’’ he said.
The situation was similar in Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, which treats the seriously wounded.
Senior health department officials said that 25 ambulances carrying patients were attacked. Protesters allegedly pelted five ambulances with stones. “Last night, an ambulance carrying the body of a protester was attacked on way to Shopian from Srinagar. A Chief Medical Officer’s ambulance was attacked by the CRPF at Lasjan,” a senior official said. When contacted, CRPF Inspector General Atul Karwal said he had no such information. “If such incidents have taken place, we will look into it. The health department has not informed us about any such complaint,’’ he said.