HT Salutes: The Pune medical officer at forefront of Covid fight
The civic body started 73 flu clinics at its hospitals and OPDs (outpatient departments) last week, as most private clinics and dispensaries were closed due to the lockdown.Updated: Apr 29, 2020 00:22 IST
With three prominent hot spots in the congested, central parts of the old city, Pune has seen more than 1,000 positive cases and 75 deaths as of April 27. As one of four assistant medical chiefs of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Dr Anjali Sabne is in charge of 73 flu clinics run by the civic body to detect Covid-19 patients. Her responsibility also includes taking care of the medical stores that supply Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to the medical staff working in these clinics, besides coordinating their schedules in the clinics.
The civic body started 73 flu clinics at its hospitals and OPDs (outpatient departments) last week, as most private clinics and dispensaries were closed due to the lockdown. These clinics not only provide treatment to the general public but are also helpful in detecting positive cases and in giving people treatment for small ailments. A daily review is taken of the number of patients visiting these clinics and positive cases detected there. Nearly 1,000 people visit these flu clinics daily, and as of April 27, Pune has seen 1,217 Covid-19 positive cases.
After the lockdown was announced, one of the first tasks Additional municipal commissioner Rubal Agarwal gave Sabne was to get the Murlidhar Pandurang Laigude Memorial hospital in shape for handling Covid-19 patients. “This hospital building had been lying idle and had gathered dust. There were no beds,” said Sabne. However, within a matter of 12 hours, she along with the civic staff got the hospital ready for Covid-19 patients with the necessary equipment, mattresses and beds.
“It would normally have taken a week to do this work. But our non-medical support staff worked so hard that it was in a matter of hours that we created a dedicated Covid hospital,” she said.
“This pandemic has strengthened our fire fighting skills. Work that would happen slowly earlier now gets done within hours,” she added.
As the in-charge of the medical stores, Sabne not only takes a regular stock of the PPE and ensures that they reach the doctors and paramedics who need them.
When municipal commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad appealed to corporates, voluntary organisations and individuals to extend help to the corporation, it was Sabne’s office — her core team consists of 20 people — that handled all incoming offers of help. The PMC asked for television sets to help keep patients entertained in newly-created isolation/quarantine facilities and hospitals, as well as donations of ventilators, masks, sanitisers, hospital beds and food packets.
“My office had almost become like a call centre with offers of help and queries on what kind of assistance we need pouring in. We provide a list of our requirements and the donors decide on what they can do best,” said Sabne. A record is kept of all such offers and medical supplies are transported wherever required.
“I have been working with the PMC for the last 30 years and this is a completely different challenge that I am seeing for the first time in my career,” she said.
An MBBS-degree holder, Sabne has done diploma courses in public health and family planning. She started her career as a residential medical officer in the PMC and rose through the ranks to become assistant medical chief. She helped frame the ‘PMC Urban poor medical scheme’, which launched in 2010, to provide treatment to the urban poor (with annual income of less than Rs 3 lakh) at private hospitals, with PMC bearing 50% of the cost.
Sabne’s husband is also a doctor with the Ordnance Factory in Pune. Her two sons are engineers and everyone in the family is worried about her safety because of her high exposure to Covid-19 positive cases. Her day begins at 8.30 am and goes on till late evening, and often entails a visit to the flu clinics. “I have been taking all the necessary precautions in terms of using PPEs. When I return home, I don’t even touch the door bell,” she said. “My chair is kept in such a way that we ensure social distancing at home too,” she said.