‘We ferry dead at a time when their own are afraid to touch them, will get reward from God’
Srinagar, May 04: As Covid-19 pandemic tightens its noose on Kashmir with positive cases showing a tremendous spurt, the ambulance drivers of various Srinagar hospitals are putting their lives on the line by ferrying corpses of Covid-19 victims from hospitals to the homes of deceased.
The news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) reached out to some of the ambulance drivers to know their hardships and problems faced by them in ferrying the COVID-19 positive patients and corpses.
Sajad Ahmad, an ambulance driver at SMHS hospital says that the drivers are always at risk of contracting the virus while ferrying the COVID-19 patients to either hospitals for their bodies to the burial sites.
“If anyone dies of COVID-19 in a hospital, his body is usually moved to a mortuary before an autopsy takes place and later we often carry the body to ambulance from hospital as most of the patients have a few attendants along,” Ahmad said.
He said, “Almost we have been helping all the attendants in carrying the corpse of a COVID-19 patient. We have seen that very few close relations of the person who dies of Covid comes forward. Many are afraid of touching the body.”
Ahmad said that the ambulance drivers at SMHS hospital on an average ferry nearly 25 patients from SMHS to JawaharLal Nehru Memorial (JLNM) Hospital Rainawari or Chest Disease (CD) Hospital.
“In some cases we have to pick COVID-19 patients from their respective homes and we often tend to help the positive patients with serious infection so that they reach the right hospitals on time,” he said.
Ahmad also says that in small ambulances while ferrying the COVID-19 positive patients, there does not remain much distance between the driver and a patient.
“In SMHS hospitals, we have 10 ambulances and 13 drivers. In the first COVID-19 wave last year, all of the drivers had been tested positive,” he said.
Ahmad said, “Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, the ambulance drivers of SMHS hospital have ferried nearly a thousand carcasses from the mortuary of the hospital to graveyards.” He said that though it is their duty to ferry the patients, but they are “playing a bit more that what they are supposed to do, just for the sake of humanity with a hope that they will get reward from Almighty.”
He said that some attendants of the COVID-19 positive turns violent unnecessary as if they are responsible for the infection.
Meanwhile, another ambulance driver at CD Hospital Srinagar, Abdul Rashid Khan said that their fraternity sometimes offers the funeral prayers of the COVID-19 deceased.
“Ambulance drivers sometimes join in performing the last rites of COVID-19 deceased and in some cases, we offer funeral prayers to the deceased of whom family members or relatives are not present,” Khan said.
Khan said, “Last year, drivers panicked and feared ferrying the infected patients after the first patient—a 65-year-old man died of COVID-19 on March-26 at Chest Disease Hospital in Srinagar.”
“The fear was at a level that drivers were crying of the trepidation, but we didn’t step-back and continued ferrying COVID-19 positive patients.”
He said that in CD hospital, at least three ambulance drivers had been tested positive last year. “We have only three ambulances and seven drivers,” Khan added.
“On an average, we ferry nearly a dozen COVID-19 positive patients from the OPD ward which is on ground-floor to ICU that is merely 300 meters away. The patients have to be ferried through ambulances as they can’t walk to reach ICU wards because of the uphill route,” he said.
Khan also said that the ambulance drivers also ferry nearly 20 infected patients to Kashmir Nursing Home on daily basis—(KNO)