Former minister Mahesh Sharma returns to primary profession to tackle Covid-19
The minister took the decision because his hospital’s staff members seemed to be crumbling under the work and mental pressure unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic.Updated: Mar 30, 2020 06:36 IST
For the past eight years, Mahesh Sharma has been a full time politician, handing over the running of his Kailash Group of hospitals in Noida, to his doctor wife, Uma. But for the first time since he became a legislator in the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 2012 and then a union minister in 2014, Sharma has switched back to his white lab coat. It is not because he is no longer a minister, but because his hospital’s staff members seemed to be crumbling under the work and mental pressure unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I just got a call that a coronavirus positive patient had come to the hospital,” he said. “The first reaction of my staff was to feel hesitant, to back off a bit. I think when I go and stand with the patient, it helps them feel stronger. The staff members feel reassured that I’m here.”
For 25 years, Sharma practised general medicine after studying in UCMS College in the Capital. Graduating to becoming an administrator, Sharma started and quickly expanded his chain of hospitals along with his gynaecologist wife. Their two children are also doctors and he did not have to bother with the daily operations of hospital administration, till the full impact of the coronavirus hit India.
“For the last two weeks, I’ve been here for at least 14 hours daily. It’s not that I’m consulting or it is my area of work but I am back to managing the place,” he said. As research about the disease is still evolving, Sharma’s main firefighting has been to mentally prepare his staff. All hospitals, even private ones, have been roped in by district authorities to keep a certain number of beds for Covid-19 patients.
“The other day, a brigadier died and his body had to be taken. One driver told the other that he had died from coronavirus. The driver panicked to such an extent that he just abandoned the body and didn’t come for two days and still has not come back,’’ said Sharma. ``We had to then address all staff members, especially the other driver. We told him that brigadier didn’t die of corona. And even if he did, they had protective gears like masks and gloves and so they can safely do their jobs. You have to be a human and do your duty.”
Sharma said there was a direction to all hospitals to treat all respiratory disease patients like coronavirus, until it is proved otherwise. “So we first take their samples and send it for testing,’’ he said. No patient had tested positive at his hospitals yet but they did have half a dozen suspected cases.
His son Dr Kartik Sharma welcomed his help and advice. “It’s good to have his guidance on this. Even when we are home, we are constantly discussing how to get more equipment, whether it is N95 masks or personal protection equipment.”
“It isn’t possible to do testing at a mass scale here. Even America can’t afford to do that. My friend there tells me they have no gloves or mask. Compared to that, India is much better off. I don’t think we will face any shortages any time soon,’’ the doctor said.
So how does a doctor like him stay safe? “I leave my clothes here and the ones I wear at home I just dip in detergent. This virus is detergent sensitive and so I do this and then shower before meeting my family.”