Dr. Manish Mahajan
A sudden outbreak by a new deceptive enemy originated from Wuhan in China and engulfed the world like a Tsunami and UT of J&K was no exception to it. It is not that the health department was not aware, but the emergence of this sudden war like situation was at a time when nothing much was known about this invisible enemy. There were no targeted weapons like specific medicine or vaccine, thus posing a great challenge to the department. Initially, the only way to reduce the spread of virus was Social Distancing and Isolation.
Moreover, when the whole world went into Lockdown to limit the spread of Virus, Health Department accepted the challenge to fight this unknown hidden enemy and prepared our frontline warriors by developing their skills and capabilities. Capacity development of the health staff was done over a short period of time under the guidance of J&K UT Administration and directions from Union Health Ministry, New Delhi.
Daily trainings/ workshops were organized on a war footing and new diagnostic techniques were introduced like the Nasal swab test, RAT, RT-PCR etc. Large scale sampling at major sensitive points like Airport, Railway Stations, Bus Stands, Toll Plazas, Offices, Market places etc was done for screening of Covid cases with the arrival of Rapid Testing Kits.
A new breed of warriors in the form of doctors and health care workers with an indomitable spirit stood up bravely against the pandemic to take this challenge head on.
To safeguard their families, the doctors and other health care workers stayed in isolation away from home, close to their health facilities for days and months together and continued to provide care to the helpless patients despite exhaustion, personal risk of acquiring infection & fear of transmission to their near and dear ones. On duty, the health warriors braved all odds and fought the disease by wearing cumbersome and uncomfortable PPE kits for hours together without water, food and toilet breaks even in hot and humid weather conditions. Innovative means like dancing, singing, doing yoga etc. were used by these heroes donning PPE kits to release stress and cheer up the patients inside the wards/ ICU and motivate them to stay strong. This was the ultimate spirit of dedication of our Frontline heroes at Old block Gandhi Nagar Hospital and other Dedicated Covid Health Centres like DH Udhampur, DH Reasi, DH Samba, DH Kishtwar and DH Ramban.
Over worked and at risk, ambulance drivers of Health department and 108 Ambulance Service also played a crucial role ferrying the Covid patients during this pandemic. Also amid fear of infection, the Sanitation workers of the health department continued to work with zeal and dedication. They sometimes even performed death duties in graveyard and cremation grounds for the last rites of Covid patients.
The real heroes of this pandemic were the ones, who, by putting themselves on the forefront to save the lives of others, ended up by sacrificing their own life. The list includes a few doctors and paramedics from Health & Medical Education Department. Not to forget the other health staff, many amongst whom were several senior doctors who landed up in a very critical condition but were fortunate enough to come back from the clutches of death and again sprung back into action at the war zone. Even though the families of the deceased health warriors shall be monetarily compensated but the ultimate fact remains that there is no compensation for precious human life.
The Health department could not have fought this war alone if they did not have the backing of other frontline warriors from Police, Municipal Corporation, District Administration and last but not the least, the Civil Society. We were not the lonely warriors but had the support of other health institutions like the four Medical Colleges, ASCOMS, SMVD Hospital and the masses with us and now when we introspect, we realise that we may have erred at times but in the end we have done a pretty good job.
(The author is Dental Surgeon Dept. of Health Services, Jammu)
Dr. Manish Mahajan