The Response of Catholic Hospitals to the Corona Virus Pandemic
The global pandemic of the Corona Virus or Covid 19, has affected 6,889,223 people worldwide and continues to spread. Though lockdowns were implemented early, the spread of the virus has not been contained. In India, the total cases have crossed the 2,00,000 mark and continue to rise, daily. The state of Maharashtra accounts for one-third of the total cases in India and about 40% of the deaths. As of 17 May, the state's case fatality rate is 3.6%, lower than the global average but higher as compared to other states. The city of Mumbai is the worst-affected city in India, with more than 2,715 active cases and 170 deaths being reported within 48 hours. The total number of cases nears 45,000 as of 4th June, 2020.
To detect and monitor the rate at which the infection is spreading across Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) began testing and contact tracing. A total of 5,11,130 Covid 19 tests have been conducted, as of 4th June. With the city on high alert, the BMC mobilized its personnel and set up various Health and Safety guidelines for hospitals, especially those designated as treatment centres for Covid 19. The BMC has acquired a large number of beds in general wards of private hospitals, not inclusive of maternity, dialysis, chemotherapy and casualty wards. Beds are being offered at government rates to make treatment affordable. Hospitals, designated as treatment centres, are inspected to ensure that rules and guidelines are followed.
To aid people and those infected by the virus, the BMC has created a Dashboard, specially designed to provide real time status of the availability of beds in hospitals near them. The BMC has also partnered with Uber, to automate the BMC’s ambulance dispatch system to cater to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
In Mumbai, Catholic hospitals and healthcare workers, within the Archdiocese of Bombay, continue to aid those affected by the virus and provide the best possible care, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
St. Elizabeth Hospital, Malabar Hill, initially, was not a BMC approved hospital for Covid 19 treatment. However, treatment has not been denied to Covid positive patients, who visited the hospital. In the case of emergencies, patients, admitted for other illnesses, that test positive for the virus, are isolated immediately.
Holy Family Hospital, Bandra, has increased the number of beds set aside for Covid 19 patients from 55 to 122 in the general ward and the ICU. In case of unavailability of beds, patients are transferred to other centres for treatment. Holy Family hospital also looks after the BMC Covid Care Centre at Khar. They have divided its medical personnel into two batches, each batch working 14 days at a time in 6-hour shifts. To ensure their wellbeing the hospital has provided these health care workers with accommodation.
Holy Spirit Hospital, Andheri, has set up a fever clinic which has treated an average of 150 patients daily. The hospital also set up a walk-in and drive-in testing booth for Covid 19 and is now treating patients that are Covid 19 positive.
Karuna Hospital, Borivali, was approached by the BMC to treat Covid positive patients. Complying to their request, 30 beds were designated for treatment of mild to moderate cases as the hospital did not have the required infrastructure to treat severe cases. Stable patients were discharged and those cases that developed in severity, were transferred to other centres for treatment.
Holy Cross Hospital, Kalyan, working in close collaboration with the health authorities of the KDMC, have made the hospital available as a COVID 19 treatment centre in the area. Hospitals like Stella Maris and St. Ann’s hospital in Kashimira, while not being a part of the frontline Covid centres, have responded to other medical emergencies and have been at the forefront of service, through relief measures.
While treatment and quality care remain a priority, the current situation poses a few challenges which the hospitals are striving to overcome. The greatest challenge that hospitals across the Archdiocese are currently facing, is the stigmatization of Covid 19. As the stigma and fear of Covid 19 grows, patients and family members tend to conceal their symptoms and seek treatment once the severity increases. Awareness is key. Patients are encouraged to seek medical help once they develop mild symptoms without hesitation for early detection, greatly increasing the chances of recovery.
Another challenge that presents itself, is the guideline of modification of the existing infrastructure. Since the regulations pertaining to isolation wards and COVID beds require major changes in the existing structure and set up, hospitals take a few days to comply with these directives. This includes creating or adapting makeshift arrangements like converting general wards into COVID-19 wards, in compliance with technical specifications issued by the Government Authorities.
Taking care of patients is of paramount interest, but this cannot come at the cost of neglecting the needs of the hospital personnel, medical and administrative. Hence, while it’s an endeavour to treat every patient, there is the need to ensure that the protective kits, working hours and other guidelines issued by the State and Central governments are adhered to. It is a very fine balance, but hospitals within the Archdiocese are fully committed to the fight against Covid 19 without neglecting the welfare of both patients and hospital personnel.
The challenges encountered by the hospitals include various screening formalities mandated by the State and Central governments, like setting up of fever clinics outside the main hospital building. This increases the time factor in the treatment of a patient but is unavoidable. Hospitals are also limited by the constraints of space and the number of beds.
It is unfortunate that sometimes, media houses highlight the difficulties of patients without striving to understand the difficulties and challenges faced by the hospitals. This is not only stressful, but misinformation based on partial truths fed through newspapers and social media, have had and continue to have a negative and demotivating impact on the personnel, who are dedicated even beyond the call of duty.
It is extremely saddening that doctors and medical staff, who are the frontline warriors in the fight against the Pandemic, are at the receiving end of threatening calls. But despite all this, the Religious Sisters, doctors and nurses have not wavered from their duty and the service of the city. Many on the frontline in this battle have themselves contracted the virus.
It is commendable that Hospitals and health workers within the Archdiocese are committed to fighting this deadly Pandemic. They seek the collaboration of all for together we can combat this unseen enemy.