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Friday, August 07, 2020

Chandigarh: You are not only fighting Covid-19, but also the system, say patients about their emotionally draining coronavirus experience

It’s been a testing time for Ravneet Dhaliwal, whose father, a frontline worker, started showing symptoms of the coronavirus on July 3 and was referred to the Government Multi Speciality Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh, on July 6.

Written by Parul | Chandigarh | Published: August 1, 2020 1:44:59 am
Coronavirus cases, Covid test, Chandigarh news, Punjab news, Indian express news Police deployed outside a house at Mauli Jagran complex, Chandigarh. (Photo: Jaipal Singh)

The pain and weakness is unbearable, with even talking a chore, shares Ravneet Dhaliwal, a resident of Sector 46, who is quarantined at home with her parents after having testing positive for the novel coronavirus following much hassle.

It’s been a testing time for the young woman, whose father, a frontline worker, started showing symptoms of the coronavirus on July 3 and was referred to the Government Multi Speciality Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh, on July 6. Dhaliwal recounts how their experience in the hospital was both harrowing and disillusioning, The hospital refuses to test him as he didn’t have fever, though he complained about body ache, weakness and cough. “He returned home but lost 8 kgs in three days. Alarmed, we again went for a test to GMSH 16 but they wanted a chest X -Ray first, which further delayed the process. Finally, the sample was taken on July 15 and after 30 hours the report came positive. Such delays and negligence can cost a lot. The health department officials came to our home on July 16 and sealed our home and took my mother’s and my temperature. As I hold an M.Sc in Biotechnology from Panjab University, I could sense that I was also Covid-19 positive. I told the staff I have a cough and headache but they did other formalities, ignoring what I was telling them. One day passed, nobody came for sanitisation. My father then called somebody and they came. By the time two days passed, I had lost my taste, and my lungs felt heavy but I had still not been sampled,” says Dhaliwal.

On July 18, the health department called and asked Dhaliwal and her mother to get ready and the ambulance took them to GMSH-16 at 11:30 am. Dhaliwal shares there was a huge crowd there, with no social distancing and no place for people to sit and wait, as they waited for three hours before giving their sample, and again two hours before they were allotted a room. “By this time, I had pain in my chest and was sweating badly with fever. The room was clean and spacious, but they were using the same oxymeter for every person, without sanitising it. When I asked, they ignored my query. The washrooms were stinky and wet and despite my frequent queries, we had no clue why we had been shifted to the second floor at about 4.30. “I asked them why we were being shifted but did not get any reply, as two patients in the room asked us if our report was positive. Then after four hours, the health department sent us a report which confirmed that we were positive,” says Dhaliwal, adding that no instructions regarding medication were given and even after nine days, no one from the hospital called to ask about their symptoms and health. “When we came home, my mother had stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. After trying the helpline number for hours, we got through the next day and after three hours from the time the call was attended, the medicine was sent. You are not only fighting the virus, but the system as well. This is the state of COVID care in Chandigarh where only 0.1 per cent of the total population is infected. I wish senior officials could interact with both patients and doctors to find out their problems. Patients must be given clear instructions about their symptoms and medication. The procedure of sampling must be simplified, an appointment can be given and after stamping, the person should be sent back home,” says Dhaliwal.

Rejected by neighbours

With the number of Covid-19 cases in the city increasing steadily and crossing the 1,000 mark on July 30, such experiences may no longer be isolated cases. The pandemic has taken a toll on people in varied ways, making them feel vulnerable, emotionally charged, fearful about the future and alone.

While hospitals can be a daunting and disappointing experience for many, the stigma attached to a Covid-19 positive case can be heartbreaking.

For 49-year-old Inderjeet Kaur Sandhu, Principal, Sant Isher Singh Public School, Phase VII, Mohali, who, along with her husband Gurbax Sandhu tested positive, it wasn’t the illness, but the “emotional distancing and rejection” they faced from immediate neighbours, that has taken a toll.

“Though we were asymptomatic, and our children had tested negative, we chose to opt for the Gian Sagar isolation facility to quarantine ourselves for 16 days. As an educationist and mother of a doctor, we were very concerned about people around us, and so chose to isolate ourselves there. I came home on July 24 and confined myself to my room, but our next-door neighbours of more than 25 years stopped coming out and did not even exchange glances with us. Our maid has been told not to work at our place, the milkman, garbage person, even the vegetable vendors are being counselled, leaving me feeling helpless, but too weak to react. I wish people would be more empathetic, it is a pandemic and can happen to anyone. At this time, what is needed is support and understanding,” shares Sandhu.

Travelling from Indonesia to Chandigarh just before the lockdown, Aditi Srivastava recalls how she decided to quarantine herself at home for 14 days, as she had travelled from abroad. But some people residing in a society in Mansa Devi Complex created undue problems for her and her son, though they had no symptoms of Covid-19. “The health workers came to our home on a regular basis, checking on us and also if we needed anything, but people made sure that no staff, the garbage collection man, our driver, could enter our home. We were told not to step outside our home to even buy the basics from the shops and vendors in our society. I still can’t get over this mental trauma,” says Srivastava.

Hitesh Walia, an electrical engineer working at PGIMER and a resident of Sector 19 was tested positive along with his wife, who works with the Punjab Police, and his son. “A junior in my department also tested positive and we were also tested as we were immediate contacts, and also frontline workers, with not a single day off. We were asymptomatic and were among the first people who chose to home quarantine, keeping in mind the safety of everyone. It is not an easy experience, for you feel emotionally isolated, there is no work and there is an underlying tension because of your health. Yes, there are times you feel people are avoiding you. Shopkeepers also reluctant to give you the essentials. But there are others, who call you and offer help. As far as the hospital experience goes, they are working under severe constraints and we faced no issues. A doctor was attached to us when we were home isolated and I think at this point we need to be more aware and considerate of those who are facing health issues,” sums up Walia.

We are following the protocol: DHS

Chandigarh: Dr G Dewan, Director Health Services, Chandigarh, commenting on the personal experience of Ravneet Dhaliwal at Government Multi Speciality Hospital, Sector 16, pointed out that the doctors at GMSH 16 are strictly adhering to the ICMR guidelines for making a clinical diagnosis of Covid-19 before taking any sample.

He further clarified that going by the training and the clinical acumen of the doctor and since the patient did not have fever, it was decided to treat the symptoms and not go for the Covid-19 test immediately. Hence, the delay in presentation and the Covid-19 test is self- explanatory. As far as the hospital’s cleanliness is concerned, it is taken care of, the food given is very good and many patients have vouched for it, he added. Sampling in room number 108, added Dr Dewan, is well-organised but for occasional unusual rush, which the hospital has been experiencing recently and all necessary amends and upgradations are already in place.

The samples, he added, are sent to PGIMER, Chandigarh which is already working in full capacity, and it takes about 12-24 hours for the processing of the samples and sending the final report, hence the time between taking samples and final reporting is not under the control of GMSH-16. Also, GMSH-16 has no independent private rooms for suspected or positive Covid-19 patients. Earlier, there were two dedicated wards – Isolation Suspect and Isolation Confirmed, the former stationed all suspected patients, and the latter stationed Covid-19 positive patients. However, going by the new policy, patients are sent for home isolation after testing positive or are stationed at Dhanwantari Hospital/Sood Bhawan, whereas severe patients are further referred to PGI. In view of the global pandemic, he further pointed, there is an overwhelming workload in government hospitals and the doctors, paramedics and all supporting staff are working day and night to ensure that the system works smoothly and all patients are attended and satisfied and all minor lapses in the system are being plugged as soon as they are being identified. ENS

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