Kathmandu: The sudden increase of covid cases has once again overwhelmed hospitals. This has left the health workers with more responsibility and less time for themselves.
The frontline health workers have been putting themselves at risk for the past 3 years, and now with this surge of the new variant, things have gotten even more hectic.
Kalpana Katwal, a Covid Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nursing incharge at Bir Hospital, said that although the situation is not the same as of the past waves, it is still very hectic for the team. It is different in a way that the hospital does not lack Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), oxygen, or beds like before, but because of the increasing patient flow, the manpower does not seem to be sufficient. “This new variant spreads faster than any other variant, which has infected a lot of health workers at the same time,” she said.
The mortality rate is not as high as it was before, but that does not mean the patients are any less, she added. Besides the patients that are admitted in the general as well as ICU wards, there are other infected people coming for their checkups in the Outpatient Department (OPD), which keeps every staff in the hospital at the risk of getting infected.
She added that there are instances where 5 staff members come back after getting tested negative, and more than that come out testing positive. With this daily increase in the number of infected staff, it has naturally increased the pressure of responsibility among others.
She also mentioned that there are staff members that work despite being infected since they are working with the covid patients when the situation requires all hands on deck. “They themselves volunteer to stay when their symptoms are not severe,” she added. The staff at Bir Hospital are working as long as their health is stable. Although they are provided with the 5 days quarantine period, there are staff members willing to work anyway if their symptoms are nor severe.
According to the hospital policy, the infected staff member gets 5 days time for isolation, and the time period is extended if their health has not gotten better.
For the ones not infected, there is definitely an overload of work. “Once we worked for 13 hours straight without a break since we were unable to find someone else to cover another shift immediately,” said Katwal.
On the previous waves, the staff of Bir Hospital were given hotel rooms for isolation, so that they would have a place to stay during their time of infection. But in this wave, the staff are having to manage their own place of isolation.
For the ones not infected, there is definitely an overload of work. “Once we worked for 13 hours straight without a break since we were unable to find someone else to cover another shift immediately,” said Katwal
This has created difficulty among the students who are working in the hospital. There are many individuals who lack a proper place for isolation since they are staying in a hostel with roommates and many people fear being near the infected person or any health official working on the Covid ward. Some have difficulty trying to adjust with the landlords, and this problem was there even in the previous wave. With the fast-spreading variant and increasing number of infected staff, this has been a huge problem with the staff personally, said Katwal.
Nevertheless, even with all these inconveniences, the workers don’t seem to be discouraged. Katwal said that no matter how tough the situation gets, their first priority will always be the patients. And it is evident through their efforts as everyone is giving their best effort to ease the patient.
“It is a rare event when a staff gets to take a break,” she said. “There is barely any time for the staff to take a breather,” she added in a trembling voice.
Yet she ended on a positive note saying, “We have gone through worse, and we will get through this too.” She strongly stood by her statement that for her and all of her fellow staff, patients will always be the first priority before them or anyone else. “This is my job and I am happy that we have been able to help all these patients in their time of need,” she added.