Kathmandu: Suraj Tiwari is an ambulance driver at Siddhartha Children and Women Hospital, Butwal. Providing ambulance service to the patients in need is his regular duty, but the pandemic has kept him on his toes. “I receive phone calls all day and night from Covid-19 patients. I barely have any time to eat or sleep,” said Tiwari.
Ambulance drivers have been working in the frontline day and night to take patients to the hospital in time, risking their own lives. Despite the alarming situation and obvious health risks, Tiwari is fulfilling his duty wholeheartedly. “The primary issue I’ve been facing during the pandemic is the scarcity of oxygen for the ambulance. Most of the Covid-19 infected patients are in dire need of oxygen, and being unable to provide it disheartens me, ” Tiwari rued.
However, oxygen scarcity is not the only problem facing him at the moment.
Unlike other frontline workers, ambulance drivers like Tiwari do not have the luxury of Personal Protective Equipment. “Most ambulance drivers are working without any PPE or even gloves, for that matter. I recently lost a close colleague in the line of duty, and three more are infected. Even after such incidents, we are not getting proper health protection,” regretted Tiwari.
Besides, there are numerous challenges he faces every day in his line of work. “It is a nightmare when I need to repair or service the ambulance. Mechanics are too reluctant to repair ambulances because of the fear of getting infected,” shared a frustrated Tiwari.
“Recently, I had to bring a patient to Kathmandu from Butwal. The road was bad, and on top of that, I could not get anything to eat or drink on the way. Shopkeepers were scared when I stopped the ambulance to buy something, and they were all avoiding me, fearing the infection,” said Tiwari.
As a frontliner, Tiwari has been tirelessly battling against Covid-19; however, the government’s reluctance in combating pandemic stresses him.
Physical and mental stress equally trouble him. “The lack of oxygen for needy patients and the pain and desperation in patients’ eyes are heart-wrenching. There have been a few times when a patient breathed their last in the ambulance. That’s when I feel the most heartbroken,” Tiwari lamented.
Tiwari sleeps in a separate room in his rented house. He wants to meet his child, wife, and parents, but the fear of infecting them does not let him do so. His work requires him to be on the road all day and even late at night. “At nights when I don’t get to go home, I take a nap in the driver’s seat, It is not comfortable at all, but I have to fulfill my duty at any cost, and people need me now more than ever,” said Tiwari.
Nevertheless, Tiwari performs his duty with compassion and honesty. “I just wish that concerned authorities provide ambulance drivers with the necessary safety equipment and the oxygen in the ambulance. Moreover, it would help cut the infections if there were separate ambulances for Covid-19 patients,” said Tiwari.