How Ashwini Hospital knit its team to fight Covid pandemic-Dr Maya Gantayet, Managing Director, Ashwini Hospital

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Q. Currently, India is struggling hard to contain the spread of the second wave of coronavirus. The health infrastructure of the country is also badly hit. How has Ashwini Hospital geared up to tackle the deadly virus? 

– India has unfortunately been badly affected by the second coronavirus outbreak. The disease affects a higher number of younger individuals, is associated with higher mortality rates, and comes on quickly. The healthcare system has been overwhelmed by this. It’s like asking the frontline soldiers to fight another war, neck-to-neck. Just as the warriors were recovering from the first war, the second one began. Ashwini had begun to clean up and do its own speciality work. Slowly, however, Covid positive cases began trickling into the hospital in April. We realized we may be headed for a second wave, as in other states. All hospitals were urged to prepare for a second wave by the government. Our hospital was requested to become a Dedicated Covid provider by mid-April. Due to the increasing caseload, we were asked to open three more centers, in Bhubaneswar, Berhampur, and Sambalpur. Team Ashwini was eager to work with us, as they are an incredibly dedicated team. I have no words to express my gratitude to my team members for their support in this difficult time.

Q. Ashwini Hospital was among the first few hospitals that responded to the call of duty and got converted into Covid Care Hospitals. Tell us more about that.
– We were among the first few hospitals in the state to respond to the call of duty. Ashwini Hospital was founded by me and my cofounder was eager to do our small bit for our state and our people. When we first opened Covid hospital, fear played a major role among the staff and the public. In the media, there was constant coverage of the European saga as well as the American deaths. We had many questions on our minds. Will we have a large number of patients?  Are we likely to have a mortality rate so high that we may not be able to handle it? My staff becomes ill while serving Covid patients. Despite our inner turmoil, we were able to move forward because of the few steadfast and fearless Ashwini team members who joined together to work for the Covid affected patients. Who will work for the patients if healthcare workers do not?

Q. The monstrous second wave continues to haunt us. Do you feel that the public dropped their guards quickly after the first wave of coronavirus last year?
– Except in Ganjam, the first wave rose slowly. After reaching a plateau, it declined rather quickly. We breathed a sigh of relief. Throughout February 2021, news of some cases in other states kept trickling in. In our state, we were in denial. The Ashwini Hospital group conducted a health conclave in mid-March along with a media partner to discuss the resurgence of Covid. We were not very serious about the resurgence even then. The public dropped their guards. Masks were not required to be worn. They gathered all over the place without displaying an appropriate attitude. There is no doubt that these factors have contributed to the monstrous surge.

Q. The ICU beds are quickly filling up post the second wave pandemic. Is the treatment of your normal patients getting affected due to this? If not, how are you striking a balance between normal and Covid patients?
– Currently, all four of the dedicated Covid hospitals we operate are full to the brim. Oxygen dependent beds and ICU beds are full. When we understand their desperation, we feel awful about letting down our own people by not providing them with an ICU bed. There are fewer non-Covid problems during Covid times. Ashwini trauma centre has been reserved for that purpose.

Q. Ashwini Lung Institute (ALI), another wing of Ashwini Hospital has been doing exceptionally well despite the fact that it got operational just a few years ago. As the only dedicated centre for respiratory diseases in the state, how has ALI catered to the needs of the covid patients battling respiratory problems?
– An Ashwini Lung Institute (ALI), a dedicated centre for lung diseases, is one of our dream projects. We were able to focus on Covid since this is primarily a lung disease when we conceptualised this center. Covid patients in Bhubaneswar have been cared for by ALI. In just one month, we have treated 565 patients with just 150 beds. We have good results because we have dedicated pulmonologists who manage the Covid patients. In the long run, patients who will require follow-up for a longer period have the advantage of meeting the same doctors and coming to the same hospital, which is indeed a great relief for them. Patients tend to feel more comfortable if they can visit the same doctor every time they have a problem, rather than running from pillar to post to find relief.

Q. What are the major challenges that Ashwini Hospital is facing right now?
-Ashwini’s biggest challenge at the moment is the fatigue of healthcare workers while wearing personal protective equipment and working with patients who have a high viral load. In terms of infrastructure, Ashwini Cuttack and Bhubaneswar have adequate facilities. As a higher-specialty hospital, our infrastructure is fine. The makeshift hospitals in Berhampur and Sambalpur are newly constructed. It is difficult for us to deal with new poorly trained nursing staff, average infrastructure, and a severely affected caseload.

Q. In experts’ opinion, vaccination is the best option to fight the deadly pandemic. Yet, many people are skeptical of getting inoculated due to pre-existing myths. What would you say in this regard?
– Vaccination is definitely the best way to eradicate a disease. There is a BCG vaccine for tuberculosis, a polio vaccine for polio, and a measles virus for measles. As Covid 19 is a new disease, the most effective vaccine may take longer to reach the market. Dr. Fauci, chief of the CDC, said that vaccines must be taken, whichever is available to us. It is better to have some protection against the disease than none at all. Side effects are minimal. Media reports of side effects are exaggerated. Those who are wise will definitely take the vaccine.

Q. Medical professionals have been tirelessly serving the covid patients for over a year now. As a woman, how do you strike a balance between family and profession during such unprecedented times?
– Medical professionals are fatigued, mentally drained, and psychologically drained. In addition to being a woman, I am also a senior citizen. Thanks to God for giving me the courage, mental strength and physical well-being to do what I do now, which is to treat patients as a doctor. My children are grown, so I no longer have to stay at home or cook for them.

Q. As a health expert, what would you advise the people during these testing times?
– As a public health official, I encourage the public to take the necessary precautions to prevent this deadly virus from affecting them or the people they love.

Q. Lastly, what are your future plans for Ashwini Hospital?
– We don’t know what the future holds for Ashwini Hospital. I am interested in educating nurses and paramedics in the proper manner. Healthcare is a skill set that is well below average compared to any other country. Ashwini Hospital was founded by technocrats, therefore, it will have a postgraduate education center in the future.

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