Nurses, janitors, lab assistants: Faces in front-line of battle
A thirty-eight-year old nurse in Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, one of the caregivers of the 68-year-old woman from Janakpuri who died of Covid-19, got to know of her patient’s death a day later, on Saturday morning. Though she had seen many deaths in her decade long career, this felt like a personal loss.
“For the last three to four weeks we had been working like machines. Three patients were admitted here after being tested positive, but we all tended to them without worrying about our own safety. Despite all training, we were not prepared to handle this death. We thought things were under control,” the nurse, who did not wish to be identified, said on Monday.
Many nurses, lab assistants and janitors handling the infected people, are in the frontline of the battle against Covid-19. However, many of them fear that the close proximity with suspected people, might come as a hurdle in the task they face.
In the nodal centres such as Safdarjung Hospital and RML Hospital, the sudden outburst of patients has also worried the healthcare workers.
“How much can you cover yourself up? People are in panic mode and the hallways are full of people who suspect they have the virus. What if one of the patients we are in touch with actually ends up having it and we are not geared for it?” a nurse at RML said.
In China, USA, Italy, and in the Middle East countries, the number of Covid-19 infected includes several healthcare workers, who were in close contact with the infected patients. Some have also succumbed to the infection.
In China, from where this global outbreak began, a government notification said that doctors, nurses and paramedic were at a 40% higher risk of contracting the virus if standard precautions were not adopted.
An advisory issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments to ensure all the necessary protective gear to these professionals as they tend to patients. This includes personal protective equipment (PPE), with face shields, gloves, masks, respirators and shoe covers.
“We are the ones who actually interact with patients and their families. We accompany the lab assistants when they take samples and swabs from the patients. I do wonder if community spread begins, and if I ever get infected, what will happen to my children. But this is a part of our job” said a nurse from Safdarjung Hospital, where quarantine facilities have been set up for the patients detected with the novel virus.
Sumitra Devi, a contractual sanitation staff at Safdarjung Hospital, said that she has been asked to wear masks and gloves before entering the quarantine wards.
“I clean the rooms and also disinfect the door knobs and railings of stairs, which earlier used to be cleaned once in two weeks,” she said.
Rince Joseph, Delhi president of the United Nurses Association, said that the governments could have been more prepared for handling this outbreak.
“Since the spread of this virus began around November, as a developing country, India should have paid more attention to prevent the spread of this virus. Early awareness programmes could have helped,” Joseph said.
The association has also written a letter to the Delhi government urging them to inspect the preparedness of private hospitals in dealing with patients in the coming weeks, if the situation becomes worse.
Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary, union ministry of health and family welfare, said, “Health workers are out major priority. We took up national level training and we have also requested states to conduct state level training and also equip the health care workers.”