Working beside docs, nurses, multi-tasking staff lead fight
While the pandemic has thrown doctors and nurses to the forefront of the fight against the infection in the national capital, supporting their efforts are thousands of ward boys, attendants and sanitation staff who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes.
In most hospitals across Delhi, at least two such staff, known as multi-tasking staff (MTS), work in each ward in every shift, sharing tasks ranging from serving food to patients to helping clean them or change clothes and clean the wards. Above all, they have also become a medium to connect patients with their families who are not allowed inside Covid wards.
Manoj Kumar Paswan (37), a ward attendant at RML hospital, looks after at least 20 patients during his regular morning shift. “First I serve breakfast to all the patients. It’s important for them to eat first so that they take the day’s first dose of medicine. Many of the patients are either very weak or old and require assistance to eat. I also help such patients in changing their diapers, clean them and change their clothes,” he said.
Tirath Ram (44), a helper at the civic-run Swami Dayanand Hospital, said that many patients admitted at the hospital belong to economically weaker sections, who do not own smartphones. He said that he does not hesitate in passing on his phone number to their relatives so that they can be in touch with each other or at least enquire about the well-being of the admitted patients. “Doctors and nurses are busy... Covid symptoms are treated by doctors, I can only provide some mental peace to patients and families that are already stressed,” said Ram.
Abhishek Singh, an attendant at Lok Nayak Hospital, said that many a times, patients seek help to make video calls to their family members. “There is hardly any communication... They just want to see their loved ones...It feels good to help,” he said.
Suresh (38), who is lovingly called ‘Suni bhaiyya’ at the Hindu Rao Hospital, said that two weeks ago, a 19-year-old patient admitted to the hospital expressed her wish to eat Parle-G biscuits. “She was nearly my sister’s age... I bought her two packets of Parle-G at my own expense. She was so happy... These are the small joys that we hold on to,” Suresh said.
Some attendants said they also encountered “misbehaviour” by relatives of patients. A ward attendant in GTB hospital said, “A few days ago, a patient could not be revived as he was brought in very critical. The family members started to abuse us and the nurses. We tried to make them understand but later had to call in security.”
Meanwhile, many said the fear and guilt of infecting family members is also on their minds. Shamsher Rai, an attendant at RML hospital who lives with his family of six including elderly parents, said, “Even as I wear PPE kit all the time in the Covid ward, the fear of infection is always there... If people living in big houses are getting infected, what are the chances of a family of six living in a two-room set of not getting the virus?”