Hospitals step up plans to avoid staff exposure to COVID-19

 thehindu.com  04/06/2020 20:06:17 

At the casualty department of KEM Hospital in Parel, doctors wearing protective gowns, gloves, masks and headgear are the first contact of any patient walking into the emergency before he or she is exposed to other doctors, staff and patients.

With patients taken in for routine medical ailments testing positive for COVID-19 later, the healthcare staff has been most at the risk. Hospitals are now taking several measures to ensure that routine medical encounters dont lead to crippling of the health system.

We are going by the universal precaution measures. This means that any patient, symptomatic or asymptomatic, may have COVID-19 and has to be handled accordingly, said KEMs dean Dr. Hemant Deskmukh, adding that the doctors triage at the entry level and then direct patients to the relevant part of the hospital.

Last week, a 40-year-old woman who was rushed to KEM hospitals emergency department succumbed and later tested positive for the virus. This led to nearly 10 hospital staff, including doctors, being quarantined at home. The hospital authorities hope that universal precaution measures will help reduce such exposures.

Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), the countrys premier cancer institute, has also appointed a triage nurse and a doctor at the entrance to screen patients and separate them to an isolation room if they suspect a possibility of the infection.

First and foremost, we make sure if the patient has to be in the hospital at all. There are many who dont see their files for appointments, said Dr. Shripad Banavali, TMHs academic director. He said the patients temperature is recorded and medical and travel history is also probed. If there are any symptoms or suspicions of COVID-19, we immediately admit them to an isolation ward, he said. The hospital has so far sent 30 swabs of suspected patients for testing, and all were negative.

Bandras Lilavati Hospital has also started screening patients at the entrance. Dr. Jalil Parkar, department of chest medicine, said all this is easier said than done. Healthcare professionals have to constantly work with this risk. However, some measures can go a long way in protecting them, he said.

Dr. Parkar said the hospital has appointed doctors to take a complete history of patients at the entry point. This includes their medical and travel history, and also if they are coming from any of the containment zones. Triage has thus become crucial now, he said.

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