VOICES PUSHPESH PANT SHINIE ANTONY SHEILA KUMAR RAJAT CHAUDHURI AMAR BHUSHAN SADHGURU JAGGI VASUDEV BUFFET MAGAZINE PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT NEW DELHI JULY 26 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 HRIDAY CHABBRIA, ENGINEERING STUDENT The Mumbai resident came up with a face shield after realising that most NGOs focused only on larger hospitals due to high demand. The Kinder India Amidst the chaos and pain of the pandemic, the forgotten values of decency, compassion and awareness have surfaced from under the crust of post-liberalisation India, affirming that all’s well with the humaneness that defines the country By SMITHA VERMA B Vaidyanathan isn’t usually a cynical person. But like most Indians he had little expectations from government institutions. Or at least till a month ago. All that changed when the 66-year-old corporate insurance broker from Delhi, along with his wife, contracted Covid-19. The couple, who stayed alone, tried booking a private ambulance but none came forward citing their viral condition. Eventually it was a government-run ambulance service that came to their rescue. “After our test came positive, we got a call from the Delhi government-run Covid helpline. They responded to our questions calmly and told us how to book an ambulance. An hour after we booked it, the ambulance arrived at our doorstep and took us to the nearby private hospital where we got ourselves admitted. They didn’t charge us a rupee,” says Vaidyanathan. During the course of the treatment, his wife, who is a CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) beneficiary, regularly got calls from doctors of her CGHS zone to check on her medical and non-medical needs. “I was surprised by how promptly the ambulance arrived and how the government doctors called us every day and kept our morale high. It was unexpected,” Vaidyanathan says. VIKAS KUMAR JAISWAL, POLICE OFFICER Organised a footwear camp for migrants in Agra while he was overseeing their movement. Many wore torn clothes and broken footwear. Some were even barefoot. So, he collected funds and donated generously for the cause of comfort. Most citizens are used to the official apathy political , infighting, lethal pollution levels, crumbling healthcare, canyons of caste divisions and social barriers, corruption, rising crime and neglect. Ironically Covid-19 seems to , have united India, which seems to have overcome previously insurmountable limitations and brought forward a new society which seems to be doing many things right. A few sporadic outbursts notwithstanding, the cooperation between the Centre and the states reached a rare accord by setting political differences aside for the moment. Though many public institutions charged crippling frees to take fellow Indians home, ordinary people stepped up: a girl carrying her ailing father home on a bicycle covering 1,200 km had even Ivanka Trump raving. Citizens, rich and poor, stood in the sun, or loaded their cars, with food and water for their less unfortunate brethren trudging hundreds of kilometres to their villages. It was a voyage of self-discovery: Brahmins, Thakurs and Dalits shared food and water because survival seemed more important than prejudice. Doctors and nurses risked their lives to save critical patients, in spite of facing ungrateful ostracism and fear from their own neighbours. Skies turned blue, birdsong and butterflies returned to oncegrimy gardens and rivers filled with dolphins—sights two generations of Indians had ever seen in their lives. Responsibility towards fellowmen is the recurrent motif of the Covid-19 trauma: cases were brought down in Mumbai's cheek-by-jowl Dharavi slum through sheer social distancing and municipal screening efforts. Is it the dawn of a new India? Positivity is a rare upside to the outbreak, which has brought the best of nations down on their knees. HEALTH HEROES Ajo Jose, a nursing officer with the central governmentrun RML Hospital in Delhi, was part of the first medical team, which evacuated 324 Indians from Wuhan, China, in January . At that time, Jose wasn’t sure how the days ahead would pan out. Now, over six months he has taken care of hundreds of coronavirus patients while on duty at a Covid-converted hotel arranged by the government. Every 15 days, he goes into quarantine for seven days, and follows it up with seven days of non-Covid ward duty This is . when he visits his parents. “Initially we were all , apprehensive about how to deal with patients, work in uncomfortable PPE (personal protective equipment) suits, how to eat and when to take breaks,” says the 33-year-old. Over time he figured out most things. He started eating more so that he wouldn't be hungry in the middle of his shift. He started drinking less fluids so that in his 12-hour shift he had to remove the PPE suits only briefly Some . of his peers in other hospitals even started wearing adult diapers. “Since we can’t touch anyone anymore and our faces aren’t visible under the PPE masks, providing emotional support to isolated patients is the most difficult task,” he adds. According to government data, India has only 1.7 nurses per 1,000 population against the 3 per 1,000 WHO norm. The allopathic doctor-population ratio is well below the WHO prescribed ratio of 1:1000. Doctors in government hospitals are working 18-hour shifts to meet staff shortage. Last week, the Indian Medical Association reported that 99 doctors across the country have succumbed to Covid while on duty The ailing . health infrastructure keeps most people away from government hospitals. Yet at the outbreak of the pandemic it was healthcare workers in government hospitals who worked beyond their duty hours. “It’s remarkable how they've risen to the occasion. Despite gruelling working conditions and the initial stigma from society they’ve worked tireless, ly says sociologist Shiv ,” Visvanathan. Like for example Zahid Abdul Majeed, a resident doctor at AIIMS, Delhi, who risked his life by removing his goggles and face shield in a dimly lit ambulance to re-intubate a Covid-19 patient who was being transferred to the trauma centre of the hospital. During Being felicitated by Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan (left) AJO JOSE, NURSING OFFICER Associated with RML Hospital in Delhi, he was part of the first medical team, which evacuated 324 Indians from Wuhan, China, in January. In the last six months he has taken care of hundreds of coronavirus patients. Covid, government hospitals, despite their limitations, delivered results. Take Kerala for instance. The state recorded the country’s first Covid case on January 30. Led by a united front of politicians and bureaucrats, healthcare workers and district officers worked from early morning until late into the night to contain the rising numbers; the international media hailed it a model state. In Chhattisgarh, the state took control of the privately run Raipur Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) to properly treat Covid-19 patients. “Government hospitals have the best doctors. They don’t always get support in terms of infrastructure and supplies but this time it's a different story . States (albeit with some initial delays) have ensured that there are enough PPE kits, oxygen and ventilator-related beds and other essentials to treat the biggest public health emergency the nation has witnessed so far,” says Shailaja Chandra, former secretary in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and former Chief Secretary Delhi. , BLAME GAME ON HOLD Last month, former MP Shahid Siddiqui took to Twitter to share his trauma of getting his niece admitted to a hospital in Delhi. She showed Covid-like symptoms. As his tweets went viral, his niece got a bed in Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi. Even though she eventually lost the battle to Covid, he expressed his gratitude over social media, to those who helped him in his hour of crisis. “In hindsight, I Turn to page 2
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