‘Once we get into isolation ward, we can’t come out till end of shift’: Chennai nurse on COVID-19

"If any of the staff members had any reservations to work in isolation wards, they are threatened that a complaint will be raised to the higher authorities," she said.

Healthcare workers such as doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are working tirelessly all over the world to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. To achieve their objective, they created a social media campaign called ‘We stay at work for you, You stay at home for us’ to urge people to stay inside their homes to reduce chances of getting infected.

Following the 21-day lockdown in India to contain the spread of COVID-19, people have been talking about how difficult it is to stay indoors with very limited contact with the outside world. But there is a section of people whose entire day revolves around the isolation wards designated to take care of patients infected with the deadly disease.

One among them is a staff nurse working at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH), one of the major government-run hospitals in the state which provides the isolation facility for COVID-19.

On condition of anonymity, she spoke to indianexpress.com about the hardships of working in an isolation ward. “Close to 800 staff members are employed at RGGH. We are assigned to Isolation wards based on the rota. If any of the staff members had any reservations to work in isolation wards, they are threatened that a complaint will be raised to the higher authorities. We all took this profession to do service but realising the seriousness of the disease even the staff members are scared, we cannot blame them, at the end of the day even they have a family,” she said.

As per the latest reports from the Tamil Nadu Health Minister, a total of 2,09,284 passengers have been screened in the state and there are 13,727 isolation beds and additional 284 are currently admitted. Of the 1,039 samples tested, 933 have turned out negative, 29 of them have been tested positive while the results are awaited for 80. There are 2,464 ventilators available in the state in various hospitals.

She added that once the staff members enter the isolation ward, they won’t have time to break for a meal or even use a restroom. “There are 300 beds in RGGH currently and they are trying to increase the number. Two staff nurses are appointed for every 10 beds and they are changed two days once. Once we get into the isolation ward, we won’t be able to come out until our shifts get over. After wearing ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ (PPE), we won’t be able to touch anything. We have to remove the entire protective gear in order to eat or drink anything and it’s not possible in the allocated time. So we eat, drink water before getting into the isolation wards. As a woman, it is even more difficult because we don’t have time even to take a break to use the restrooms during our shift. After the shift gets over, I make sure I don’t come in close contact with anyone before I reach home,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government has appointed separate health officers to take care of 1.50 lakh pregnant women in the state. In the Government Kasturba Hospital for Women and Children (GOSHA), restrictions have been put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.

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