COVID | ‘Trust Me, I’m Helpless’: A Young Delhi Doctor Gets Candid
"We have to sometimes recycle masks due to shortage," said RML doctor
"I get 10-15 calls daily, to arrange beds, oxygen cylinders or Remdesivir. Trust me, I’m helpless, I don’t know what to do... or how and when the situation will improve," says Parikha Rampal, a senior resident doctor of the Radio-diagnosis department in Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, in a candid conversation with The Quint.
Here is her full interview:
What challenges are you facing during this second COVID-19 surge?
There is shortage of drugs like Remdesivir in the hospital, shortage of PPE and masks. It’s a grave thing while dealing with Covid patients. Oxygen cylinders are limited, even beds. Doctors don’t have beds right now. I don’t know what we will do if one of us falls sick. The saddest part is that even the government doesn’t have an answer. Whatever questions people have, I have the same questions, and there is nobody to answer.
What safety precautions are you taking for yourself and your family?
A patient who came with a simple abdominal pain, went for surgery, and later I was told he was COVID positive. So, you tell me what should I do? Ideally, I should have been quarantined for 14 days. Thankfully I did not develop any symptoms, but that should have been the protocol. I put my life at risk to examine that patient, to perform an ultrasound rest on that patient and he turned out positive. And I go back home, and I stay with my parents. The risk is so great. This is the only thing I am concerned about, as I stay with elderly people in my house.
'We Follow the Concept of Triage in a Medical Crisis'
Suppose you get 10 patients with poor oxygen levels and only have 5 beds. How do you handle such situations as doctors?
We have the concept of ‘Triage’ that we always use in such situations. Firstly, oxygen saturation, how much is the dip? How much is the co-morbidity of the patient? Is he diabetic, is he hypertensive, is he above 60 years of age, and most importantly life expectancy. If a patient is above 90, and there is another patient who is young, 40 or 30, then (using triage) I would give the bed to a younger patient as he has a better chance of survival compared to someone who is 90 and has a lot of co-morbidities. We use this in every situation of crisis.(Image Courtesy: Dr. Parikha Rampal)
Dr. Parikha Rampal checking a patient at RML hospital. How are you managing non-COVID patients in the hospital?
The sad reality is that people are still not cautious. The fear I saw during the last wave, how diligent people were with all precautions, that has died down. This is my personal observation. Our OPD is still functional which is ironic. Ideally it shouldn’t be. And there is no social distancing among patients. We try to implement it, but honestly, it is not possible.
'Second Wave is Mainly Affecting Young Adults'
Are doctors and nursing staff getting enough medical assistance?
The conditions being provided are not apt for this scenario. Though we are young, some (doctors) do have ailments like diabetes or hypertension, and they can be infected. We get PPEs, gowns and masks but that is not always the case, I would say. A lot of times there is a shortage of gowns and masks. We make do with what we have or use the ones we used yesterday, as something is better than nothing. What we are doing is not 100% the correct thing or the ideal situation.
What is the major difference between the first and second wave?
The change has been in the age group getting affected. Till first wave, people of my age were relatively immune or they developed mild symptoms which were not life threatening. This time it is worse for us, because we take lesser precautions as compared to the elderly. So the wave is mainly affecting young adults. That is a major area of concern. Secondly, the severity of symptoms - it was usually the 13th to 15th day when people started exhibiting symptoms. That is coming down. It is now 7th, 8th day, maybe even on the 5th day that people experience symptoms or dip in the oxygen level. That is worrying.
Are other patients in hospital is getting infected with COVID-19?
If you think your disease is not life threatening, if your condition is not acute, you should try and manage it as much as possible at home. Wait for some time till the situation improves. Because the risk is not just for the doctors but for patients as well, who might come (to hospital) with a simple headache and go back with COVID-19.
When will the second wave end?
There is a rule of epidemics - the faster it comes, the faster it goes. So by the end of April I hope we will get good news.
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