‘Surgery and Fear of COVID-19: My Learnings at a Ranchi Hospital’
My visit to the hospital for 3 consecutive days left me with many questions.
The nation’s situation is agonising. No matter how many stories, experiences, news you read, the depth of the situation can never be understood unless you walk those lanes. And I did. Hence, I decided to report the workings of a Ranchi hospital that I had to visit for 3 consecutive days and be admitted at for another.
I was diagnosed with a cyst in my lower back early in September. I consulted my family doctor who prescribed me some medicines and referred me to a surgeon to remove it. Amid a pandemic, some doctors are busy in treating only COVID-19 patients while many are avoiding new ones. I had to consult four different surgeons until one of them finally agreed to give me an appointment. He was to be consulted at a hospital that was also a COVID testing centre.
The Day of My Appointment...
I reached the hospital with my aged father at 10:30 am. Usually, people think that all their health-related problems will be resolved in the hospital but this time, I was in fear of getting infected with COVID-19 inside. The condition of the facility made my tension worse.
At the gate, there was a guard whose prime duty was to check body temperature and sanitise each visitor. Yet, instead of carefully doing his job, he was engrossed in his phone. Additionally, an ambulance right outside, a patient was waiting to be put on to a stretcher at a time when urgent medical care is necessary to avoid any kind of exposure. Seeing this mismanagement, I had two things on my mind.
First, my father’s safety, which was of utmost importance. Second, since I was in terrible pain, it was becoming difficult for me to think straight and I was afraid to make wrong decisions.
In spite of being a COVID-19 testing centre, there was chaos. I saw a patient outside the ECG room whose relatives were trying to fill some forms so that he could be quickly admitted. I wondered if the form filling could be done later, or in guidance of some expert who could help fasten the process?
I then saw an aged man waiting for a lift while carrying a patient on a stretcher all alone. Why was he all alone? Where were the hospital staff? These questions baffled me.
Nonetheless, I went to the nurse and submitted my medical file. It was already 11 am and the doctor wasn’t present. The nurse explained that because of coronavirus, doctors had no fixed shifts. She suggested I call the doctor, but in a condition like mine, why should I, a patient, be asked a doctors’ reporting time? It is the job of the hospital to manage their doctors’ routine and charts especially now, since the health infrastructure is burdened.
Because I wanted to get done with as soon as possible, I called the doctor from the reception and he said will be in the hospital by 1:30 pm ie two and a half hours later than his reporting time. There were several others waiting for their preferred doctors like small kids and elderly, who are vulnerable groups with regards to the coronavirus.
The doctor came at 1:45 pm and all the patients rushed towards his cabin all at once. Social distancing was largely forgotten. After a few minutes, my name was called. I was told to get 12 tests which would cost me Rs 4,230.
Day 2 – The COVID Test
I came back to the hospital next morning for the tests. While making the payment, the receptionist told me the total cost was Rs 5,500. Upon inquiry, he replied irritably that whatever rate he was quoting would be the final one. While my father and the staff were amidst a heated argument, a second staffer present at the reception checked the rates once again. After cross checking, it turned out that there was some billing error on his part. I wondered – won’t this behaviour further distress a patient waiting to get better?
After this hustle, I got all my tests. Staff was in PPE kits, gloves, and masks. The place was properly sanitised. With this, I was little convinced that everything is not as grey as I thought. At the end, I went for the COVID test. This is where it went downhill.
There was a crowd standing in a very chaotic space. A pregnant lady, senior citizens, literally everyone who should not be there, was.
I took a deep breath, sanitized myself and somehow managed to go to the guard cutting through the crowd. The guard checked the form and noticed that there is no line number mentioned on my form, which was the responsibility of the receptionist to mention at the time of payment. The line number is given so that the patients can go for testing as per the allotted number to avoid any gathering.
I again went to the reception to take my line number. I waited for 52 people to get their tests done and finally, I went inside the cabin. I saw that the person doing the test was wearing his PPE kit while his helper hadn’t even covered his nose with his mask.
I was shocked to see that a place that should have been a lesson for patients on how to take COVID-19 precautions was itself devoid of them.
Day 3 – The Result
I came back the next day to collect my reports. Given what I had witnessed the day before, I decided it was better for my father to stay home. There was a 55-minute delay in getting my report. Others were getting impatient as well, while a gatecrashed meeting was happening inside the cabin. People were so furious that they themselves forgot to follow basics like social distancing.
After some time, they opened the gates for report distribution. The first person who went inside for his report tested positive. There was pin drop silence outside and he was standing in the crowd the whole time. Thankfully, my report was negative but I went back home with the fear of getting infected, since I was now a contact. I pondered if this way of distributing COVID-19 reports was safe.
Whether asymptomatic or symptomatic, everyone gathers at one place for their test and also get their reports the same way. Isn’t this counterproductive?
My Surgery and Learnings
The next day I was admitted to the hospital for my surgery. I felt a bit relaxed seeing the nurses properly sanitising my room and my bathroom.
Even though I knew I would get well soon and go back home, I was already infected with the fear of COVID-19. While my mind replayed the scenes of the past three days in my head, I stared outside the big window in my room, hoping to never see it again in my life.
(The Quint’s calls to the Hospital Administrator went unanswered.)
(The author is a photojournalist. All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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