June 6, 2021 3:11:32 am
BATTLING PANDEMIC anxiety while staying on the job, with workload increased manifold, Dr Vikas Singh, a DNB resident at Civil Hospital Panchkula, says that over 1,000 HRCT chest scans were conducted at the hospital within the past two months of April and May- in contrast to the same number of scans performed in the timespan of a year from June 2020 to April this year.
The increased workload coupled with the pressure to deliver- while several healthcare workers around contract the infection- has taken a toll on Vikas. “It feels like we have been working non-stop for the past two months. The worst feeling is when young people in their 30s-40s, otherwise perfectly healthy and fit, come to us for CT scan that shows more than 90 per cent lung involvement. It is heart breaking. We know before anyone else, that they will not survive,” he says.
The radiology department of the hospital functions round-the-clock, conducting CT scans and X-rays at any hour. “We had to substitute time slots for Covid-19 patients, so their mingling with others is the least possible,” he says. While six hours every day were dedicated for tests of Covid-19 patients throughout April and May, “however, the number of people that came was overwhelming. There were long lines and crowd. All were Covid-19 positive patients, waiting for their turn to get a report on whether they will survive the morbid disease or not. It was disheartening to witness it each day,” adds Vikas.
While working with a mask on had been a norm for the past year, donning PPEs during duty hours became prevalent as the cases surged, making the task more difficult, he says. “We mostly donned PPE kits for conducting ultra sounds as the X-rays and scans were done by technicians who definitely wore PPEs. It would become extremely difficult to work wearing it, with compromised vision. We had even turned off the centralised ACs as we knew all those who came were Covid-19 positive and the AC ventilation would only increase the threat of spread of the virus. It is difficult to breathe in PPE, more so when you are hyperventilating, heating and sweating amid a huge crowd of Covid-19 positive people.
But it was also the only way to keep ourselves protected,”
Despite all precautions, two of the three residents and more than 25 staffers of the Radiology department at Civil Hospital Panchkula had tested positive for Covid-19 in April. “It feels I have remained protected by a miracle. Everyone else had tested positive around me. It had generated and added pressure as work force was less but workload was high. It seemed like a chain reaction, people were falling sick one by one around me,” Vikas recounts. “We have lost all mental peace, but it is our duty and we have to stay true to it.”
Noting a prime difference between the cases reported last year compared to the current year, he says, “Even during the first peak, we would conduct 10-15 X-rays and CT scans in a day, the number this time rose to as high as 40 scans a day, which is huge. X-rays and CT scans were being used as prime modalities to check the spread of the virus in one’s body.
Even those who did not test positive showed severe Covid-like symptoms with high lung involvement and thus, all consultants did depend on the radiology scans for a prognosis. The scans we saw were similar to a typical pneumonia this time. Most cases that came were severe whereas last year most cases had moderate lung involvement with basic flu-like symptoms. The spectrum of symptoms this time was broad. The cases in the last wave were mostly among senior citizens. But this wave left out no one. People came from all age groups, with very severe symptoms.”
Even though the second wave has been receding, with cases falling by at least three times, the workload- though manageable- remains high. “We are still getting 15-20 cases for scans everyday. Only yesterday we had 17, while day before we had 7. There is no outlined number, but it is averaging to almost 15. The cases that come in now are mostly those who are suffering from post Covid complications and reach us for follow up tests. The other people are those testing positive now. While the number of cases may have decreased, the lung involvement has not.”
The Radiology department of Civil Hospital Panchkula does not perform tests on patients without prescription. “Thus, the number of people we have tested signifies the spread of the disease. None of them were people who came on their own after a scare. They had all been recommended by doctors to get the tests done. It took us at least a year to do the same number of tests that we performed in the past two months during the second wave.”
As the numbers come down, the departments and doctors heave a sigh of relief. The timings for Covid radiology tests have also been brought down from six hours to three hours now, between 2 pm and 5 pm.
“There were multiple cases where lung involvement was above 90-95 per cent, with a CT score of 25/25. While I do not know for sure as to what happened to them after they left my lab… the idea of being the one who raises the red flag and brings news about a foreseeable death is a crushing feeling,” he concludes.
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