Author: Mrs. Meheli Chakraborty, CEO, Ruma Abedona Hospice, West Bengal
One of our palliative care patient’s has to undertake a journey of 200 km to be able to visit us. He has no one in his family. His only asset was a cow; and his only source of income for the past 7 years, are the proceeds he earns from selling the milk and dung produced by his cow. The Covid imposed lockdown leaves him with no alternative except to make this long journey, as his only access to Morphine is through us. Now, to be able to make this journey, he was forced to sell his cow so that could hire an ambulance for the journey.
He realised that only if he consulted with us, would he be able to access all his medicines including morphine, For free! Tania, our palliative care nurse’s eyes were brimming with tears as she was listening to his story. His helplessness teared us up as well.
Over the past 2 months, we have come across several patient’s whose care has been disrupted only because they had lost a family member to Covid.
West Bengal is also currently experiencing a massive shortage of hospital beds and supply of oxygen. An individual’s struggle begins once they test covid positive. They begin to scurry for beds and are victims of long Queues. One of our doctor’s aged 72, tested covid positive. Due to his already existing co-morbid conditions, his condition worsened and he was admitted in the ICU. We then took him to our hospice to care for him and nurture him back to health. Our entire team worked selflessly to nourish him back to health. Even though a few of our staff tested positive, everyone recovered completely, including our Dr Mallick. Since then he has resumed working and now treats others who are in need of care.
Subsequently, our aim shifted towards generating awareness in the society regarding the do’s and don’ts related to Covid and urging the community to not panic as panic induced breathlessness was seen to be a major contributor to the already existing crisis. We also ensured that all our patients’ got vaccinated, as our awareness activities also included busting of the various myths associated with vaccination.
Rita (name changed), came to us a year ago, during the pandemic, as it was very difficult for her to get care and support. She is extremely satisfied with the quality of palliative care services she received.
The above picture portrays, Rita, who is not able to walk, preparing tea and serving our visiting nurses a cup of tea in appreciation for the services received.
We have adopted the below mentioned strategies to address the challenges imposed by the Covid 19 pandemic
- For those patients’ and their families who are unable to visit us for their Morphine requirements, either due to the barriers of the lockdown or geographical distances, we now prescribe Tramadol, as it is relatively easily accessible.
- We have actively adopted technology to provide Tele-consultation for all our patients including those who have tested covid positive. We provide guidance on what to do, and what not to do; with a special emphasis towards not panicking. We are able to provide these services with confidence due to our recent experiences in caring for Covid patients.
- We have also begun to provide home delivery of medications, free of charge to the door step of patients, who reside within a radius of 35 kms from our center.
- We began networking with pharmacies / pharmacists which are located close to a patient’s home, to meet the requirement for drugs in the event of an emergency.
- We strive to relieve our patients’ suffering to the extent possible by providing them with atleast a free tele-consultation. This action provides most of our patients with psychological safety and comfort.
- We are also in the process of purchasing a few oxygen cylinders that will enable us to provide free oxygen to those who need it in the community we serve. We strongly believe that no one should have to suffer due to the lack of access to oxygen.