Dr Amandeep Kang, Director Health Services, UT in talks about the various strategies they have in place to combat Covid-19 and how people must become partners in preventing another surge.
How do you look back at the last two months, your new responsibilities as Director Health Services and the multiple challenges you had at hand in regards to Covid-19?
I had to hit the ground running. The cases had come down and I had to consolidate the gains. There was a lot of hard work involved, including extensive study and research. There are many programmes under me, and I have multiple responsibilities of the National Health Mission, Ayushmaan Bharat, the National Health Mission. As a doctor and academician, I wanted to have in-depth knowledge about Covid-19 and read available literature on the pandemic from around the world to develop and implement strategies according to the available information. Apart from strategies of containment, our focus was testing, tracing and isolation. With 80 per cent of the population asymptomatic, it was paramount that testing was available to them, making the entire exercise user-friendly and the plan of action paid off.
Daily testing for the virus has increased over the last two months. What were the steps taken to test larger populations?
We noticed that people were apprehensive about coming to flu clinics, so we decided to reach out to them through our mobile testing teams which I started. The idea was to send at least five teams across the city daily and these teams have a flexible schedule, as we get inputs from doctors at dispensaries, containment zone areas and also from people. With cases rising in Delhi, and people travelling, we agreed that it was important to deploy teams in public areas like the ISBT, Sukhna Lake, Railway Station, Police Hospital, Ram Darbar, Dhanas etc. With the change of season, it is easier to function in the PPE kits. We have faced no resistance from people, who have come forward for testing, with the RWAs also very helpful. Apart from health workers, we are also testing people who come to OPDs and have a special counter for testing pregnant women, away from flu clinics.
You have also started a post-COVID clinic at GMSH 16. What is the purpose and philosophy of this clinic?
This clinic is focusing on people who have recovered from Covid. There are some who experience stress, anxiety, strain and even persisting symptoms. We do investigations, offer counselling and management for stress, and the interaction also results in collection of data and research. For many, these 10-14 days are very tough, as they have to deal with so many fears. We wanted to reach out to these people and offer them a separate space, away from the OPDs. Right now, we have six to seven people visiting the clinic daily, and we hope to address more people.
What are your reflections and suggestions for the prevention of another surge? How prepared is the city?
We need to hold each other’s hand to prevent another surge that the world is experiencing. People need to understand the importance and value of appropriate behaviour and the need for discipline, especially when it comes to wearing masks. An increase in testing helps us prevent the spread of infection, by isolating people. We have to ensure that health facilities are not burdened and that critical care and beds are available to people, which we are confident about, as capacity building has been done. There has to be a consistency in keeping the numbers down, and fatigue has to be avoided. With the promising vaccine trials, why should we go into another surge? Also, micro-containment zones must be strengthened to prevent a surge and home isolation is another effective step to tackle the infection.
The past few weeks has seen a rise in case fatality rate. What are your observations on that?
My suggestion is that the elderly and co-morbid people should not isolate themselves at home and must come to the hospital. Many monitor their oxygen levels at home and call us or come to us when their saturation levels are dangerously low. In many cases, it is very late for us to take required medical action. We have COVID predictors and we can conduct immediate tests. Our teams are in touch with PGI and GMCH-32 and we have immediate consultation and help at hand. If we feel you are safe, we will send you home immediately. So, my urgent suggestion to people is not to be apprehensive about getting tested, seeking treatment in a hospital and if you are home isolated, make sure you are in touch with a doctor. Also, with oxygen levels of 93-94 you don’t feel breathless, but we have heard of the term Happy Hypoxia, where you feel or depict no symptoms of low oxygen levels, which can be very dangerous and cause fatality.
A central team was deployed to monitor and give suggestions regarding the Covid situation in Chandigarh. What were the findings?
Cases in Chandigarh are very spread out, which can be tough for immediate testing, isolation and contact tracing. The central team’s major suggestion was that micro-containment zones must be increased to prevent a spread of infection and also that testing must be done in larger populations, both steps we are following very strictly.
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