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COVID-19 seems to have entwined irrevocably with our lives and as experts warn of the impending peak in the country, it becomes incumbent upon us to take all precautions to check community spread. In such a scenario, labour camps, workers travelling in groups and their shelters are potential hotspots for the virus. Calling in help from the medical fraternity, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has recruited 23 MBBS grads to aid the healthcare workers in labour camps, Primary Health Centres (PHC) and other clinics in the city. Many doctors from this team are preparing for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for Medical Postgraduate courses in January 2021.
BBMP’s initiative started in Mid-March and so far has resulted in about 14,000 workers being screened for COVID-19 as well as other contagious diseases. And that’s not all. The initiative has helped reduce the workload of other healthcare workers too.
BBMP Calls MBBS Grads for Duty:
The civic board had massive new responsibilities to undertake in light of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Citizens had to be informed, residential areas to be safeguarded, and logistics to be looked after. But, arguably, one of the most crucial responsibilities was to ensure adequate number of healthcare professionals in the field.
Especially since 16 retired doctors who were working in PHCs had to quit, due to the susceptibility of people over the age of 60 to the virus.
Dr Ravikumar Surpur, the Special Commissioner (Health) at BBMP tells The Better India (TBI), “A circular was issued by the government to fill up all vacant positions in the PHCs urgently. Seven places were vacant already and after the retirement of the 16 doctors, the number rose to 23. So, we called for MBBS graduates to join our forces.” Dr Surpur is responsible for the coordination, supervision and logistics for all the doctors working for BBMP.
Soon, about 100 applications came in and based on merit, qualifications and experience, 23 got selected. This team has been recruited for a period of six months and will get a monthly salary of Rs 60,000.
TBI got in touch with Dr Bharath DT, who used to work in a private hospital when he received the notification. Being an alumnus of a government college, he was familiar with the general atmosphere of such hospitals. “The patient intake was very high and this was my opportunity to give back to society. I quit my job to join BBMP. My first working day was last month, on 9th April,” he shares. Some have travelled to the outskirts of Bengaluru to treat patients, against the fears and worries of their families.
Responsibilities of the BBMP Healthcare Workers:
The doctors attend walk-in patients, screen them for COVID-19 and complete other related work. Dr Bhaskar Rajkumar, who also joined the initiative shares, “We look after outreach programmes and scan migrant workers in the localities assigned to us. The BBMP has given us the responsibility to screen residents from house to house in these areas. If any of us ever feels like a resident might be COVID-19 positive, we have the power to intervene. In addition, we also screen for other common diseases like dengue and pneumonia which cannot be ignored even as Coronavirus overshadows them.”
Dr Bhaskar is deployed in the Cox Town PHC and a dispensary in Jeevanahalli, Bengaluru. In the past few weeks, he says he has scanned nearly 4,000 labourers and over 200 labour camps and a couple of containment zones. “Fortunately, none of the workers showed any symptoms of Coronavirus nor did they have high temperatures. Their situation in that regard seems to be under control,” he tells TBI.
Though the timings are quite challenging, Bharath shares that they do what they must. “We work from 9 AM to 5 PM through the week. This is when there is on-field work. Otherwise, duty begins around 6.30 AM,” he says.
Though most people in his assigned PHC come complaining of common illnesses like cough, cold, fever, if he gets a COVID-19 positive patient, his duties will increase manifold. “In such cases, I will have to take them to the designated Coronavirus treatment hospitals. Along with my staff, I will trace all the people the patient came in contact with for the last 14 days,” Dr Bharath tells TBI.
He adds that for the past two weeks, he has been screening migrant workers looking to leave Bengaluru. “The police check their ID, I check their health and only then are they given passes to leave Bengaluru. I check anywhere between 100-400 workers daily.”
Bengaluru Comes Together in Difficult Times:
Bengaluru (urban) comes under the red zone and it has 185 confirmed cases so far. For a city that houses thousands of migrated labourers as well as white-collar workers, the situation is especially vulnerable. But, those in the position, like BBMP and doctors, are ensuring minimum damage.
This team of doctors is standing undaunted with the civic body and the people despite the work hours and risk involved. Dr Ravikumar puts the total number of screened labourers to about 14,000. “This began around May 1st and includes those living in labour camps as well as those travelling out of Bengaluru.”
No one can say for sure when the number of new COVID-19 cases will ease. Until then, we can at least be assured that dedicated workers are keeping the disease contained even in densely populated places like Bengaluru.
Featured Images Courtesy of Dr Bharath DT & Dr Bhaskar Rajkumar.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)