Fighting a pandemic is a team effort and requires people working at various levels. One of them is the support staff at the hospital. They, like medical workers, have to don the PPE for long hours so that they can maintain cleanliness inside wards, in the hallways and around the hospitals. They are putting their lives at risk by being at the frontline and fighting the virus.
When the RDT hospital was designated as an exclusive COVID-19 Healthcare Centre, many of the staff members left, some out of fear and others were forced to due to threats and stigma from their neighbours. But some remained undeterred against all odds.
One of them is 29-year old Parthu Saridha, who was one of the first among the support staff to enter the COVID ward for his duty when the initial patients arrived. On 15th August, when RDT COVID-19 Hospital was doubly recognised by the Government of Andhra Pradesh as one of the best private COVID-19 Hospital in the state as well as having the Best Support Staff, Parthu attended the ceremony in Vijayawada and received the honour on behalf of the RDT support staff team.
How did you feel when the Government of Andhra Pradesh declare that RDT Hospital is the Best COVID-19 Hospital and has the Best Support Staff? How was the event in Vijayawada?
I was delighted when I first heard about the news. It is not due to the efforts of just one or two people but everybody here. Each and every staff member in the hospital has contributed to receiving this recognition.
I felt happy about attending an event like that where the CM of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy and other state dignitaries were present. It was an honour to receive the certificate on behalf of the support staff but I was also a bit upset that everybody couldn’t be there as this award belongs to all.
What were your feelings when the BTP Hospital was declared as a COVID-19 Healthcare Centre?
After the first announcement was made, I was afraid and nervous but at the same time I was trying to be confident that I will be able to continue at my job because I am familiar with the work and this space. Regardless of the situation, COVID or not, this is RDT Bathalapalli Hospital where I have been working for the past 10 years.
My family was initially afraid for me but I spoke to them and gave them awareness and information that we received at the hospital. After that they supported my decision to continue working. My father’s support was especially important to me and he kept motivating me.
Also I was not alone. Some of my colleagues, especially my friend Gangadhar – we supported each other in the initial days during duty hours and otherwise.
A lot of your colleagues resigned after the hospital’s designation. Did you try to speak to them? What were your thoughts throughout this situation?
Those working on COVID duty have had to face discrimination from the society. So more than worrying about myself and my chances of being infected, I was nervous about how would my neighbours and other people in my village treat me knowing that I work here.
Those who resigned chose to do so because they were fearful of the stigma that they were already receiving and I can understand. Although we had discussions among us and I tried to encourage, it was difficult for some to stay because of the threats of eviction and other warnings. In the initial period, once they knew that somebody has been working on COVID duty, they were not allowed to enter the village regularly.
Did you face the same? What were your reactions and how did you cope with it?
I received the same warnings as my colleagues. The elderly people in the village and even the Sarpanch asked me not to continue at my job. I gave them awareness on the issue and also stated that I have received a lot of support from RDT and in this crucial time I don’t want to leave my work. We finally negotiated that I will be staying at the hospital premises and visit my family in the village once a week.
Now people have become more aware of the situation and so I go home every day. I am thankful for my family as it is because of their support I was able to stand my ground and continue working.
How are the people treating you now?
With the rising cases, everybody has realised that we need to support one another. Now people have their trust in me because I work at this hospital. They know that in case they or any of their family members get infected, they can reach out to me and know the protocols of what has to be done. They now treat me as a resourceful person for the village.
Having worked for around 6 months on COVID duty, does it affect you mentally or does it get tiring?
Sometimes when it gets too exhausting we do take leaves. As the cases are rising, the stress and our burden of work also increases. At the same time I am also aware of how a lot of people are struggling and this is time to reach out and do our best. I feel happy doing what I do and I know that if anything happens I can count on RDT’s support.
Pictures and Text: Felita Viegas