‘What Break? We Barely Use the Loo’: Medics at a COVID Ward in UP

Nuse Ashish Verma recounts how his family came outside hospital to just see him when he was posted in the ward.

5 min read
‘What Break? We Barely Use the Loo’: Medics at a COVID Ward in UP

As the state with the largest population, Uttar Pradesh battles the novel coronavirus, The Quint reached out to the King George’s Medical University, (KGMU) hospital in Lucknow, the city's COVID hospital where doctors and nurses posted in the isolation ward take turns caring for COVID-19 patients. It's not been an easy ride for them or their families.

So how has the hospital organised itself as a COVID hospital? Teams of around 30-40 are set up and trained - this includes doctors, nurses, cleaners etc, who work for seven days in the isolation ward. Then, they go into quarantine for the next 14 days and the other team takes over.

Dr Farman Khan works with the medicine department. He tells us his experience: “The staff is tested once when their active duty is over, and then again when their quarantine period is over. If they test negative, then they can come back to work. The idea is to minimise the exposure among the staff and contain it.”

Department of Infectious Diseases at KGMU hospital, Lucknow.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Khan said that the first team deployed at KGMU's isolation ward was a brilliant one. It included Dr Tauseef Khan, who had tested positive. The entire team was sent into quarantine, and that's when his team was called in.

“The thing is If we go through an illness, it’s still not going to stop us getting back to our profession.”
Dr Farman Khan, KGMU hospital

‘Enough PPEs For Now, But Will Need More’

On being asked about the supply of PPEs, he said that the hospital has not faced any shortage yet. “When there was news that there are shortages in other hospitals, the hospital had started deciding on how to rationally use the equipment, so that we're not over-using it, but we're also protecting the staff."

This was also corroborated by Dr Himanshu, the head of the corona ward. He said, “We have total 40 ICU beds, and ventilators, two wards, but we have activated only one of them according to the need, otherwise all PPEs will get used completely.”

The testing and quarantine for the doctors and staff is necessary despite having PPEs. Despite how carefully you wear and take off the PPT, there is always a risk of infection, he added.

“We have been testing since 1 March and we were the first to start testing in UP. Lucknow got its first positive case on 11 March, so we kept all the stock to sustain ourselves. We have 60-70 PPEs/day but if the number of patients increase, we will need more.”
Dr Himanshu, KGMU Hospital, Lucknow

Even though they have been able to sustain themselves till now, the government is yet to deliver the next set of PPEs, he added.

Ashish Kumar Verma, a staff nurse, who was posted on the night shift in March at the isolation ward told The Quint, “We were not briefed anything, I was not trained, I was in OT (Operation Theatre). I had an idea of how to wear kits and deal with them. We had N95 masks, gloves among other things. We used to get it issued and changed it every day.”

‘My Wife & Child Came to See Me From Afar’

Each of them has had a different experience to share about how they broke the news to their families that they will be posted in the isolation ward.

“During my shift, my wife and child came to see me from outside the hospital. That was all we could manage but I was glad. After two weeks of quarantine and tests, I have come home to them finally,” said Verma who still keeps a two-metre distance from them at home.

For Dr Khan, when the lockdown was imposed it was difficult for his family since they are all in different places. He himself was in two minds before joining.

He said, “I did not tell my parents first. When I was going to join, I was watching news with my family, and they said, ‘Oh a doctor has tested positive, the team has been sent into isolation, and now there will be another team.’”

“That’s when I blurted that I am on the new team and they just looked at me with a blank face,” he added.

“Patient care has always been my highest priority. This is what I do. This is my profession, so why be scared of a disease?”

In Uttar Pradesh, the death toll has risen to 14, with over 849 confirmed cases. With this, not just the treatment but the right care of the patients has become a priority for the staff.

‘Patients Get Restless, Irritable’

“During my posting in the isolation wards, more than the disease, we had to make sure that the patients do not go down psychologically, because chances are that effect will stay longer with them,” said Dr Khan.

Verma pointed out, “The patients get restless and irritable. Locked in a room for so long, they tend to behave so. We kept talking to them to pacify them, if they didn’t listen to us, we used to call the doctors in to calm them.”

Talking about the SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Infections) patients, Dr Himanshu said that they are kept in the TRIAGE area with a team of doctors. They are tested and then based on their results, they decide which ward to send them in.

For patients who arrive dead, or are declared dead on the spot, their samples are sent for testing to make sure their family is safe, and unless they test negative, their bodies are kept wrapped in a quarantine area, he stated.

‘What Break? Did Not Even Use the Loo’

What did they have in common during their posting? All three of them stated they did not get to take any breaks.

Dr Khan said, “I don't think i took a break at all during my posting. I don't even remember using the washroom there. I used to stay for a little bit longer because I got really involved and I wanted to make sure that everything is running smoothly.”

Doctors posing outside the coronavirus ward at KGMU hospital.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
Verma says “My mind stopped working when I first heard I was posted. But then I thought, God is giving me a chance to help, to serve these people, so I joined the duty. And my shift went from 8 am to 8 pm the evening.”

Meanwhile, Dr Himanshu said that he got depressed during his quarantine period, “When I was in quarantine, we were depressed. You cant' see anybody. It is distressing, and I had the constant worry that protocols are followed and training is done properly.”

While Dr Himanshu continues to monitor the situation at the hospital, Dr Khan has joined his medicine department again. Meanwhile, Verma is self-isolating himself for a few more days and will join his duty soon.

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