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Barely on their feet, Delhi nurses back at work soon after recovering from Covid

“It's been very difficult for me. Now, I am getting treated at Ganga Ram hospital through video consultation. I got tested for typhoid and I am waiting for results,” said Kiran, a 49-year-old nursing officer.

Written by Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: May 1, 2021 7:27:06 am
Barely on their feet, Delhi nurses back at work soon after recovering from CovidMen and women will be treated on different floors of the school building. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna/Representational)

Sarath Prem (34) and his wife Simi, nursing officers at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and AIIMS, were infected with Covid earlier this month. Two weeks later, on testing negative, they found themselves back at work.

The couple are among several nursing staff recently infected with the virus — and still recovering — who have had to cut short their leave and come back to look after patients.

With hospitals dealing with a surge in admissions during the second wave, staffers said they are struggling as many doctors and nurses are also infected and can’t perform their duties.

Sarath, who works in RML’s surgical ward, said: “My wife and I developed severe symptoms — fever, cough, and breathlessness — and tested positive on April 5. We took leave from work and were under home quarantine. We stayed in different rooms, but our children and my mother also got infected. We are lucky none of us had to be hospitalised. My wife and I tested negative after two weeks and rejoined work on April 20.”

He works eight hours while on duty during the day, and 12 hours during the night shift.

“It shows I have recovered on paper but I don’t feel well. I have body ache and I feel weak all the time, but how can I say no? There are nine nurses in our ward. At present, five of them have Covid. We have to work and treat patients. It is our duty, and the hospital is also going through a crisis. There are no beds and we have difficulty sourcing oxygen cylinders from vendors and suppliers. Our ward is filled with patients who need surgery. Though we are only performing surgery in emergency cases, there are so many patients now. We can’t sit at home and can’t take leave,” said Sarath, who has been working at the hospital for nine years.

Simi (34) too said she is dealing with uneasiness and joint pain. She works at the medicine ward at AIIMS, which is soon to be converted into a Covid ward, and treats 20-30 patients every day. She said she can’t extend her leave as more staffers will be needed to look after the Covid ward.

The couple had received their second vaccine dose last month. At home, they said they can’t isolate because their children, aged three and one, are young and need care.

A senior officer from RML said, “We have over 800 active nurses at the hospital. Out of the total, around 200 have tested positive for Covid in the last two months. Some of them are still undergoing treatment while others join after a 14 to 17-day leave. There’s a shortage of staff; we have to adjust.”

At Lok Nayak Hospital, Delhi government’s largest Covid-only facility, nurses said the infection rate among staffers is high.

In the past week, four hospital staffers have died of the virus. A senior doctor from Lok Nayak told The Indian Express that there are more than 250 active cases among the nursing staff.

Kiran Anand, a 49-year-old nursing officer and a single mother, who tested positive for Covid on April 10, said: “I had a fever on April 8 so I took leave and got tested. My daughter was looking after me but on April 18, my oxygen saturation level dropped below 80. I was rushed to Lok Nayak where my condition deteriorated after I developed allergies during treatment. I was shifted to the ICU and given Remdesivir. There was an emergency case and due to shortage of beds, so I was taken to another ward two days later.”

At the new ward, Kiran said her blood sugar level spiked due to steroids. On April 25, she was discharged but she again developed a fever on Tuesday.

“It’s been very difficult for me. Now, I am getting treated at Ganga Ram hospital through video consultation. I got tested for typhoid and I am waiting for results,” said Kiran.

Her son and daughter also tested positive for Covid and have recovered. The nurse and her children live at the Lok Nayak service quarters. Kiran has been working at the hospital since 1994. She said she hasn’t taken the Covid vaccine yet.

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