Meet the fearless female faces of Covid fight in Chandigarh tricity
When a pandemic hit us unannounced and waged a war against humanity, these three women didn’t shy away from taking on the invisible enemy from the frontline. Heading the health departments in the tricity, doctors Amandeep Kang (Chandigarh), Adarshpal Kaur (Mohali) and Jasjeet Kaur (Panchkula) worked day and night, took timely decisions and bolstered infrastructure and Covid response in a matter of months. Due to their tireless efforts, the tricity is better prepared to face further waves.
Made crucial additions to infrastructure
In February last year, a month before Covid would make entry into Panchkula, Dr Jasjeet Kaur took charge as the civil surgeon. She had no intensive care units (ICU), molecular laboratories or oxygen plants at her disposal — all these would become essential in the days to come. “When I joined, nobody had the slightest idea that a pandemic was coming. But once cases started emerging, there was no looking back. The most challenging months were April to May, when there was complete lockdown and I had to put in place crucial infrastructure.”
In April 2020, Dr Kaur set up a 15-bed ICU, subsequently increasing the capacity to 24. From none to 18 ventilators and 40 Bipap machines were installed.
When PGIMER “refused” to take critical patients from Panchkula, she took the call to go self-dependent, roped in private hospitals and got more staff hired and trained. “There were days when I and Dr Sarita, then principal medical officer, used to work 14-16 hours a day, without any breaks,” says Dr Kaur, who also tested positive for Covid in November. She says for one year now she has not had a full night of sleep.
Cut to present, her timely decisions, 24X7 availability and tireless efforts have earned her credit for Panchkula’s preparedness against the deadly virus.
Ramped up RT-PCR tests to 87% in three days
A renowned gynaecologist, Dr Amandeep Kang took charge as Chandigarh health services director in October 2020, when the first wave was on a decline. “As the first measure against the virus, I enhanced the city’s testing centres from three to over 30, increasing the daily screening capacity to 3,000 persons.” She also got ICU beds increased to eight at GMSH-16 to facilitate mild to moderate Covid cases, easing the burden on PGIMER and GMCH-32 and reserving them for critical patients.
Ensuring ventilators to all when the cases shot up was the most challenging task, says Dr Kang. “There was a time when the ICU and oxygen-support beds were fully occupied. This situation persisted for 15 days in April-May. The administration then started biomarker tests at the hospital, a kind of investigation needed by doctors to treat the virus. MRI and CT scans were also made available for free.”
Recalling a time when the UT ramped up Covid testing in three days, she says, “We got orders to increase RT-PCR testing up to 80%. We immediately roped in private labs on the Haryana pattern, fixed the rates and within three days, the testing was increased to 87%.”
Despite her demanding profession, Dr Kang says nothing brings more contentment than doing one’s job with honesty.
Sensitised villages, augmented vaccination
Mohali has achieved excellent success in vaccinating its populace, kudos to civil surgeon Dr Adarshpal Kaur’s tireless efforts. She took the reins against Covid in January this year, a time when the guard had to be upped for the second wave, but would not be easy, given the lack of infrastructure at government facilities.
“In first wave, critical patients were being sent to Gian Sagar Medical College. However, no such hospital was assigned to us in the second Covid onslaught.” Taking on the challenge, the Mohali district hospital was converted into a 120 bed Covid facility and routine OPDs were shifted to ESI Hospital. “There was no ICU at the government hospital, so we tied up with private hospitals and managed to ready 370 Covid beds.”
Medical in-charge of a district having a huge rural population, spreading awareness and getting people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour was a big test for Dr Kaur. Even so, her colleagues say, she went from village to village, held video campaigns and vaccination camps to ensure that villagers got the jabs and virus spread was contained. “My job sometimes requires 24-hour attention, but I try to take out time for my mother, who is a cancer patient and has advanced stage Parkinson’s disease.”