Within a few months into 2020 and the entire world was attacked with the pandemic, a novel virus that makes its way into a human body with ‘droplets’ through our eyes, nose, and mouth. The best way to avoid the transmission of the virus is to maintain social distancing and self-quarantine. With each passing day, the cases have been increasing at an alarming rate and the frontline warriors are trying their best to save the country from this pandemic. The government has taken some strict measures to safeguard its citizens and the hospitals are working non-stop to treat the patients, both pandemic and non-pandemic ones.
While we have read and heard a lot about how the government is making sure to take care of everything during the pandemic, let’s see how Dr. Sanjay Kumar senior Gastroenterologist & Director, Gastrocare Liver & Digestive Disease Centre Bhopal feels about it.
How doctors are dealing with pandemic and regular patients? Any special precautionary measures for regular patients?
The pandemic is for everyone but the situation is worse for doctors because we have to keep working. A common man has paused his/her life, working from home, not opening their shops, they might be having fun at home but we are continuously working and in contact with the patients. We don’t know which patient can be a COVID patient and deciding which patient needs to be kept in a normal ward and who needs to be sent to the designated COVID Hospital. We have to safeguard ourselves as well as staff. So, I think once the patient is tested positive, things are much easier because there are designated hospitals for COVID patients, which has all the facilities. They have PPE kits. The problem with the non-pandemic hospitals is despite closing the OPDs, we are open for emergencies. So on a normal day, I used to see 100 patients per day and now I see only 30 -40. But for that too, I have provided all my frontline staff with the necessary equipment for their safety. We cannot sit for the entire day in PPE, it’s extremely difficult and challenging. We wear N95 masks all the time, and now we are used to it. As a non-COVID center, we have little help from the government. We are not provided with the PPE kits, and we spent a lot on our safety during the initial days. N95 masks, which costs Rs 150, was purchased in Rs 500. The government has asked if we don’t see patients, strict action will be taken but they haven’t provided us with precautionary stuff. We are somehow managing, we have given all our staff proper face shields, a gown and everyone needs to sanitize before entering the hospital. There are announcements at the hospital every hour as a reminder for people to wash their hands and follow social distancing. We are continuing the regular work at the hospital in a low-key manner.
The major problem is economical for us as we are not very rich. We work very hard to earn for ourselves and for our employees. I have around 200 employees and I’m worried about how I’ll pay their salaries this month. The government has said don’t cut anyone’s salary, but how will we manage? We are working 20% of our capacity i.e. 2-3 hours a day where earlier we used to work 10-11 hours. So, the employees will have to deal with some share of the losses because of the economical crisis. The government is no one to instruct to not cut anyone’s salary and it should be the sole decision of the private employers. if the government wants us to maintain salaries, let govt. provide us grant/subsidy. We try to keep the staff motivated and encouraged.
Since the government isn’t providing the non-COVID hospitals with the necessary equipment, is there a hope they might help in the future?
Actually, it is poor planning by the government. Earlier, we had proposed to the government to provide us something, not much then at least a few PPE kits. After a lot of persuasions, we have now received a few kits and some material cost to cost basis. They might be having their own problems but what has expected form the government is at least they could have ensured the proper price of the kits, gloves, and masks. We are ready to spend but they could have kept a check on the inflated price. People are taking advantage of this tough time. Govt. has terribly failed in this part, they have a lot of power which they could have exercised and stopped the black marketing.
Also, we expected insurance of health care providers by the government especially for COVID, it is like going on war front but if you die we are not responsible, This is pathetic
According to you, what government could have done apart from the lockdown?
According to me, contact tracing could have been done better. Once the lockdown is lifted, patients will not vanish in a day. Lockdown is a very short-term solution and the government now needs to think of a proper long-term strategy. Lockdown was necessary to gear up the system but this isn’t a forever solution. The ideal way to deal with such pandemic is contact tracing. This should be a very efficient process. The containment zone is the most useless exercise they’re doing. They’re testing people and giving reports after 8-10 days. Instead, they should make sure to use resources and manpower wisely because if someone is positive and is being told after so many days, he/she would have met a lot of people in between. With no treatment, contact tracing and effective testing are the only keys to success. Quarantine those who are tested positive to break the chain of transmission.
Secondly more important, death should be prevented. that can be done if symptomatic patients are admitted early and treated promptly with oxygen & other symptomatic medicines.
Thirdly, the functioning of various healthcare institutions should be carefully looked into & should be planned by a doctor, not by administrators. There is no clear policy, no Guidelines by the government in this regard. Let us prevent the dissemination of corona, Prevent death due to corona but at the same time not let our non-corona patients suffer and die,. This requires meticulous planning and involving senior doctors in the thinking process.
The lockdown should be gradually lifted with proper rules, and if hospitals and other frontline workers can work with precautionary measures then everyone can. Life has to go on. The decision of keeping malls, theatres, and restaurants shut is a good one, but what’s important is that everyone should start working. The lockdown cannot go on forever and everyone must devise a safe method of working.
Dr. Sanjay Kumar has given a completely different picture of the reality when it comes to the government support to the private, non-COVID hospitals. In the end, all we can hope for is a better tomorrow! Free from the pandemic and people efficiently maintaining the social distancing to take care of themselves as well as their loved ones.