Phone calls, chit-chat: How a COVID facility in Delhi is helping patients fight corona, isolation

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Published: June 14, 2020 5:10 PM

At the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital (RGSSH) here, doctors and nurses regularly interact with patients, making sure "they don't lost touch with life" in the time of social distancing and quarantined existence.

COVID facility in Delhi, coronavirus patients, quarntie centre in delhi, covid 19 cases in delhi, latest news on coronavirus outbreakAs many as 14,945 patients have recovered, been discharged or migrated so far, while there are 22,742 active cases, according to the Delhi health department. (Representational image: IE)

For a person infected with COVID-19, the debilitating disease also brings with it an unbearable feeling of isolation. A Delhi hospital is helping its coronavirus patients in not only fighting the disease but also the accompanying loneliness with phone calls and a bit of chit-chat.

At the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital (RGSSH) here, doctors and nurses regularly interact with patients, making sure “they don’t lost touch with life” in the time of social distancing and quarantined existence.

“We call this project ‘reaching out to the unreached’ and it started about one-and-a-half months ago. The idea was to help the patients deal with isolation while under treatment and also get feedback from them to improve our patient care system,” Director, RGSSH, Dr B L Sherwal told PTI on Sunday.

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RGSSH in east Delhi, with 500 beds, has been treating pandemic-affected patients since the outbreak in Delhi in March and has been a COVID-19 dedicated facility from the very beginning. The facility only admits serious coronavirus patients.

“As part of this initiative, a team of doctors and nurses regularly calls patients in isolation wards to check on them and enquire about their general well-being. I also talk to many of them, by going in the wards or ICU, or on phone, and they also share their stories with us,” Sherwal said.

The senior doctor says a phone call may appear to be very innocuous, but in many cases patients lose hope not because of the disease that has weakened their bodies but the terrible sense of loneliness that comes with staying in isolation.

“Once I spoke to an old man and he told us he had no one to go to in Delhi, and requested that we allow him to stay a bit longer after treatment. We managed an arrangement for him in the non-COVID area for some time to help him. Loneliness also kills, you see,” Sherwal said, recalling his interaction with patients.

The doctor in charge of the hospital’s grievance redressal system calls patients to ask about their well-being and to hear out their complains.

“She gives me a list of the people she has called in a day and the complaints received, maybe on medicine not given on time, or about food or anything else, and that helps us improve our patient care system at RGSSH,” the director said.

Asked what motivated them to come up with the system, Sherwal said the genesis of this was the social media posts being made during the Tablighi Jamaat episode, when a large number of its members were brought to the facility from the Nizamuddin area where a religious congregation had taken place.

“A normal person behaves in a different manner during isolation, and that’s what we understood. Many social media videos had been put up during that time showing the wards. We took it up in two ways, as an impulse to go for course correction if any gaps are found in our system, and also to counter the allegations made in the videos,” he said.

So the improvement of patient care system began and soon the facility will discharge its 1000th patient after successful recovery from COVID-19, Sherwal added. A 65-year-old American woman who was diagnosed with COVID-19 was discharged from RGSSH three days ago after successfully recovering from coronavirus infection.

“Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart and everyone at Rajiv Gandhi hospital for the amazing service. Your expertise and techniques saved my life. Thank you all of you for your generosity,” she said.

Sherwal said while many foreign nationals were brought to RGSSH after the Tablighi congregation, this woman was the first American national to be treated at the hospital.

Delhi recorded 2,134?fresh coronavirus cases on Saturday, the second highest single-day spike here taking?the COVID-19 tally in the city to cross the 38,000-mark, and the death toll due to the disease climbed to 1,271, authorities said.

As many as 14,945 patients have recovered, been discharged or migrated so far, while there are 22,742 active cases, according to the Delhi health department.

Sherwal said besides face-to-face and telephonic conversations with patients, the hospital has also formed a ‘May I Help You’ team.

”The uniforms of doctors and nurses who are part of this team carry the logo of ‘May I Help You’ on both sides, so patients can recognise them from a distance and tell them their problems,” he said.

“A patient-doctor relationship is very different. Though in the initial days doctors and nurses were scared to go near patients, now they are all helping them recover,” Sherwal said. Perhaps because unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, he said.

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