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Ahmedabad: How Civil Hospital traversed the journey from fear to faith

From the time it took in its first Covid patient on March 18 last year, Civil’s 1,200-bed Covid hospital has discharged 80,000 patients till date and conducted 2L RT-PCR tests. It’s now one year to the day when the first case of Covid-18 was received by Ahmedabad Civil Hospital on March 18, last year. There were no SOPs to follow at the time, no protocols, medicine or treatment – only fear of the never heard before virus that was spreading fast. The task was enormous, which led to the immediate setting up of a dedicated 1,200-bed Covid hospital campus, hurried appointments of in-charges, reassigning duties of doctors and staff. Thus began the treatment of patients with the available knowledge in long 12-14 hour shifts. Over the course of the year, 80,000 Covid-positive patients were treated and discharged successfully, while 3,500 lost their lives in the process. The Covid hospital has been a story of fortitude against formidable odds, from fear to faith.

The Covid hospital was carved out of the several speciality hospitals in Civil Hospital’s Medicity campus. Equipped with 1,200 beds, it was perhaps the first and largest facility of its kind in the country then. When work started, fear of coronavirus was all-pervasive in the city. Many seniors had retired and the doctors and nurses at hand were not trained to deal with the disease, and most of the staff wouldn’t want to be on Covid duty out of dread. One of the first tasks was to get trained hands on board, recalls Civil Hospital Superintendent Dr J V Modi, who was appointed to the post on April 18.

In the early days, Dr Modi had only two additional superintendents Dr Rajnish Patel and Dr Rakesh Joshi and a handful of junior doctors to work with. These men battled on for 18 hours a day on a stretch looking after the patients and encouraging them, but the need was felt to ask the state government for senior experienced doctors.

All the while, patients were pouring in, some brought by 108 ambulances and some others by their relatives or by themselves in auto-rickshaws. The staff were stretched between caring for the patients and assuaging and comforting relatives. Tempers often flared between class III and IV staff and patients’ relatives who were enquiring frantically and wanting to know the medical status of their admitted kin.

Soon, former superintendent Dr M M Prabhakar was brought out of retirement and made OSD of Medicity Civil hospital, and Dr M D Gajjar, who too had retired, was appointed superintendent of the Covid hospital. This came as a major relief, said Dr Modi. These senior professionals would coordinate with other hospitals on Civil, help with the administration and communications with the government and others.

The team of seniors decided at their first meeting to draft in experienced hands like Dr Rajesh Solanki and Dr Kartik Parmar to motivate and keep up the spirits of junior doctors, and Dr K K Bramhbhatt to encourage the class VI staff. For patient-relative communication and coordination, Bhupendrasinh Kumpawat was roped in as PRO, and Babubhai Prajapati for the nursing staff. The trying times drained all who worked there of energy and morale.
There was a lot of work involving sanitising and cleaning the premises round the clock, disposal of waste, and shifting of dead bodies to mortuary and vans. The experienced new seniors held frequent psychology and psychiatric sessions so as not to let the morale sag. On occasions, there would be shortage of PPE kits, medicines like Remdesivir and tocilizumab injections, gloves, masks, gloves, food etc. Coordination and communication was maintained to keep the supplies coming in.

The hospital currently has 108 Covid patients. It performed two lakh RT-PCR tests in its in-house lab, 18,701 of which turned out positive. Treatment of Covid patients did take a toll on staff and doctors themselves. Some 517 health workers got infected with the virus. These included 70 faculty members, 202 resident doctors, 56 intern doctors and 189 nursing staff members. One nurse died of infection caught while giving care to her patients.

The Covid hospital set up its own in-house facilities as and when the need arose. It started off with just over 150 high-end ventilators and now has 350 of them. In course of time, it started an in-house pathology lab, its own blood bank, plasma bank, geriatric ward, a large medical store and a dialysis centre. Ahmedabad Mirror

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