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EVERYDAY SHEROES

The pandemic has brought to light the actions and importance of frontline workers who have gone above and beyond their duty to respond to the Coronovirus crisis.WOW brings to you five SHEROES who walk that extra mile.

Text: Pabita Dahal

Dr. Sangeeta Mishra
Medical Superintendent, Koshi Hospital

Dr Sangeeta Mishra, Medical Superintendent of Koshi Hospital, Biratnagar is admired for her leadership and management skills. Her intervention since February with local government and stakeholders has successfully set up a separate hospital for COVID 19 patients in Province 1 which has the capacity of 85 beds. PCR testing is available in the hospital and meals are provided to the patients.

Dr Sangeeta is a gynecologist and a public health professional. She studied on Fulbright Scholarship 2009 and completed her Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, USA. Before Koshi Hospital, she worked at the B.P Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan.

Please tell us about your work efforts during the COVID 19

As a Medical Superintendent of the hospital, I mostly take care of management and decision making along with my regular work as a public health worker.
Along with regular service of Koshi Hospital, we are providing services to COVID 19 patients through a separate hospital. Coordinating with the government and other stakeholders, planning work, updating the situation of hospital and patients, monitoring the work of the staff and hospital are in the list of my duties. Swab testing, examining, re-examining and sending reports to the Ministry of Health and Population are among my responsibilities.

Koshi Hospital is for general people who are poor and have limited resources. If they do not get health service here, they have nowhere to go. As a public health worker, it is also my moral and social responsibility to provide health service in this critical time. We are operating Koshi Hospital as it used to function and have set up a different hospital for COVID 19 patients which is around 50 kms away. All this has been possible due to teamwork and everyone’s support.

An incident in this time that touched your heart…

After we discharged an Indian COVID 19 patient, he messaged me saying “If you visit Delhi someday and require any help, please do not hesitate to call me”. I felt so good to hear this. Interestingly, just 2-3 days before his discharge, he sent me a number and asked me to call his mother. When I called, his elder brother received the call and immediately knew who I am. He also informed that he follows every news of mine. It was surprising to know that he translates the Nepali news to help the family understand. Such incidents have a big impact on you.

What keeps you motivated to keep going in this critical situation?

First is my family, they motivate me to do my work. Yes, they are scared for my health but they support and understand my responsibility. Second is myself. I studied my entire life in scholarship. So, I think it is the time to pay back to the society. The third thing is somebody has to do it. So, why not me?

What challenges do you face?

Our biggest problem is limited human resource. However, we are managing with the help of the state government. In the first 15 days, we managed by ourselves. But later it became so tough since health workers who work for COVID 19 patients cannot go to the general hospital and they also have to quarantine for 14 days after they work for seven days. So, we coordinated with the province government. They assigned 15 MBBS doctors and some nurses under contract. Now, we are providing service by 50% of hospital staff and 50% government staff. At present, all the staff at Koshi Hospital are very supportive. I consider myself very lucky in this regard.

How do you take care of your personal safety?

I am taking the best care of myself and all the staff. The doctors assigned for the treatment of COVID-19 have been accommodated by the state government in hotels. After every seven days of treatment, they remain in quarantine for 14 days. At the same time, we also test whether they are infected or not. Similarly, since one cannot remain with PPE set for more than six hours, a shift of six hours has been assigned. PPE has been arranged for all, including sanitation workers.

I have also been under quarantine at home since day one when 12 COVID19 infected people were brought to the hospital. I have been living in a separate room and have maintained distance with my family. We have missed the essence of conversation and eating together. This is very painful but it is the need of the hour.

Any expectations from the general public or the government

My expectation from the government is to get the equipment we require like PPE and testing kits on time. I would also request them to motivate health workers as they need motivation every day in this hard time.

To the public, I would appeal to inspire health workers for their services. One lady sent a small cake for the doctors who are serving COVID 19 patients. They were really happy to have that. They are serving the public staying away from their family. So, even a small compliment can make a huge difference. And if the public follows all the guidelines and safety measures that the Ministry of Health and Population has executed, it would be good for all.

Rina Shah Yadav
Residential Staff Nurse, Teaching Hospital

Rina Shah Yadav completed her Post Basic Bachelor in Nursing (PBBN). Currently, she is working as a Residential Staff Nurse in the labour room of Tribhuvan University, Teaching Hospital, Kathmandu.

Please tell us about your work efforts during the COVID 19

As we all know, we are facing a public health emergency. In this tough time as a residential nurse working in labour room, I ensure safe and healthy pregnancies taking every precaution to protect women from infection and preparing for safe childbirth by maintaining standard protocols of infection prevention.

I am also a woman and aware of my job responsibility. Whatever the situation, the natural process of pregnancy and childbirth continues. To ensure women’s right to giving safe birth to their child and getting pre and post maternity service, I want to be there for them.

An incident in this time that touched your heart…

After we successfully handled one delivery case, the mother got symptoms like fever with dry cough and shortness in breathing. We all were scared whether she was infected by COVID 19. We immediately send her swab for the test. I was petrified even to touch my seven year old until the result came negative.

What are the challenges you face?

Due to lack of sufficient PPE, we nurses have to serve with the same PPE that other front-line health workers use to insulate themselves from contagion. As frontline health workers, nurses are particularly vulnerable to the virus and it adds to the risk factor of other healthy service receivers too. It is a huge threat for us and our patients.

How do you take care of your personal safety?

The current pandemic is highly contagious and no specific treatment has been invented. So, the only way to protect everyone is to prevent the spread of the virus by following safety measures. Considering this, I always wear mask, apron, gloves, hair cap and maintain social distance with colleagues along with ensuring frequent hand washing and avoiding touching unnecessary objects. I try to protect family members by daily disinfecting my hospital wear and avoiding contact with any objects that are used in the hospital.

Any expectations from the general public or the government

I would request the general public to stay at home and maintain social distancing and most importantly use a mask while visiting the hospital. It would be great if they help people at risk like children and pregnant women in their capacity. Another humble request is to trust facts and reliable sources of information.
The only request from the government is to provide PPE for every nurse and frontline health workers so that they can insulate themselves from contagion.

Purnima Chand
Inspector, Nepal Police

\Purnima Chand is an Inspector of the Lalitpur Metropolitan Police, Pulchowk. As a law enforcement agent of the Government of Nepal, she is serving to execute rules and policies of government during the pandemic.

Please tell us about your work efforts during the COVID 19

Since the Government of Nepal and the respective local government bodies declared the lockdown, Nepal Police has been working rigorously to enforce the government’s orders. One example is dispersing people at any gatherings or events. Furthermore, we are communicating to the general public about the state and local government’s policies related to COVID 19 awareness. Currently, our main focus is to inform people on the imposed restriction of movement, quarantine, self-isolation and compliance with the state health declarations and personal safety measures.

COVID 19 has a rampant spread and it has taken a huge toll on the whole world. As police officers, I think we have more responsibilities towards the public. In an emergency like this, the role of security personnel and the government is more crucial in saving the lives of people.

Being praised by the public and protected by the government is equally valuable in inspiring us. We are waging a war with an unseen enemy and strong solidarity should be expected from all to fight against this virus spread.

What keeps you motivated in this critical situation?

When the battle begins, there is no turning back. It becomes a matter of survival and we police officers are always at the frontline. Living in the same society and working as civil servants, we shall always prepare ourselves to serve the nation. We are firmly motivated by this.

What are the challenges you face?

This pandemic imposes some challenges. One is increased allocation of police patrolling to ensure that residents are not violating the ‘stay home’ order of the government, except for emergency purposes. We are alert to the fact that self-isolation at home and social distancing may trigger physical and mental abuse among family members. Similarly, due to the excessive use of social networking and online media, many people become victims of cyber-crimes like online fraud and fake news. Also, we need to make sure there is a regular and smooth supply chain management in the market, and traders and retailers are not hiking the price of merchandise, taking advantage of the lockdown. We have to keep vigil on all probable challenges in society and that in itself is a major challenge for us.

How do you take care of your personal safety?

Being a frontliner in crisis, we have to perform our duties under bio-hazard, clinical threats and vulnerable situations. However, we are strictly complying with the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation. There are several measures we are adopting to protect ourselves and others from contracting the virus. I encourage all our police personnel to clean hands frequently by using alcohol-based hand sanitiser or wash hands with soap and water, use face mask, avoid close contact with anyone, and share information about personal health with health care providers. If we recognise any symptoms related to COVID 19 among police staff, then self-quarantine has been made mandatory until recovery. Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is mandatory for SOCO (Scene of Crime Officers) during crime scene investigation and dead body examination. We make sure all the required resources are available in time for the safety of the police personnel.
Any expectations from the general public or the government

We are working under government and other agencies to consider how lockdown rules can be most effectively enforced. Police require a great deal of support and understanding from the general public during such an extremely difficult and unprecedented time. Similarly, we expect the government authorities to enforce required legislative measures to deal with this situation effectively.

Sneha Shrestha
Founder, Sneha’s Care

Sneha Shrestha is the Founder of Sneha’s Care and President at Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal. Through her organisation, she has been trying to stop cruelty towards street animals and working for the rights of animals. An strong animal lover, Sneha is feeding 2500 street animals daily during the pandemic.

Please tell us about your work efforts during the COVID 19

Due to the lockdown many street and community animals are suffering from lack of food and health issues. So, we decided to start a feeding campaign for them. Since there are thousands of dogs, cows and monkeys in the Kathmandu valley, it’s difficult for us to cover all those with limited resources. My contribution in this initiative is just a glass of water in the sea. However, this would not have been possible without the support of my team members. I am grateful to them. Also, kudos to those community members who are feeding animals on their own.

This is not the first time I am involved in animal feeding. After working in animal welfare for almost seven years, I can feel the animals even when I am not in direct contact with them. As a responsible social worker and animal lover, my fundamental sense of value and personal responsibility for them accelerates to make these kind of quick decisions on moral solutions to problems.

An incident in this time that touched your heart…

I encountered a dog eating a dead dog because of hunger. It was a heart-wrenching scene. If the dogs were fed by the community or anyone, that dog would not die. And the other dog would not eat his fellow if he was not extremely hungry. One died of hunger and the other was eating the dead one because of hunger. It was excruciating.

What keeps you motivated in this critical situation?

My compassion and care for animals keep me motivated. The current situation is definitely life-threatening for both humans and animals. Still, there are many helping hands for humans but very few for animals. This lockdown has made difficult for those animals to find food and shelter and also for the people who used to feed street animals earlier. So, it is obvious that many street animals are hungry for days. This situation is very crucial for them and we need to act on an urgent basis to address it.

What are the challenges you face?

In this pandemic, the primary challenge we are facing is the lack of resources (financial and human) and personal protection during the feeding. We want to cover as much area as we can by increasing our human and financial capacity with full protection to our staff and volunteers. But it is becoming tougher. Some unforeseen circumstances like hindrances from security personnel and people who think care is needed just for humans, not animals and the unpredictable weather also create difficulties for us.

How do you take care of your personal safety?

Health is of primary concern for us. It’s little challenging for us when we are in the field. But I and my team follow the basic health and safety guidelines of COVID 19 like maintaining social distance, wearing masks and gloves, covering eyes with sunglasses, using sanitizer, washing hands and disinfecting vehicle interior, etc. One good side is we are not dealing with people. So we are at less risk than our health workers. We have set guidelines for our team who work in the field and they all are also given required materials to follow the guidelines.

Any expectations from the general public or the government

I would like to request general people to feed those animals who are in their community. I assume many people go to the nearby shops to buy groceries and vegetables. So, there is no risk in feeding those animals they find on the way.

There are lots of things which our government should do but considering this pandemic, I think the local government body should be active. They should organise feeding programs or support the local clubs and organisations financially or by providing the food. If we all do our part for animals in need, then they will not suffer.

Sabnam Awal
Advocate

Advocate Sabnam Awal has over seven years of experience working with organisations in social justice, human rights, international law and treaties, migrant workers, human trafficking, and foreign labour migration. As a licensed advocate, she brings knowledge and practices on labour and migration. She is especially focused on Public Interest Litigation (PIL), human rights and foreign employment.

Please tell us about your work efforts during the COVID 19

Currently, as a registered lawyer, I am engaged in human trafficking including labour migration. Mostly, during the ongoing pandemic, I am contributing to policy level intervention, follow up and discussion with governmental ministries, departments, and other concerned stakeholders. Besides, I have been providing socio-legal counselling services to needy people through virtual means and conducting meetings prioritising the possible way out for migrant workers and members of their families who have been severely affected by the ongoing pandemic. Similarly, I am contributing to developing guidelines about how to distribute relief to the victims of lockdown coordinating with local government. Personally, I am distributing relief to needy people in my community who have been severely affected by the ongoing lockdown.

The ongoing crisis is both unwarranted and unprecedented for all human beings. It has brought us to a juncture where we need to keep aside differences and react collectively against it. I personally believe that if we all play our role responsibly, we can overcome this global crisis.

An incident in this time that touched your heart…

A differently abled girl ran out of food and fuel. Her parents were wage labourers in a construction site which is not in operation now. They are living in my ward in a rented room. They came in contact with my husband where they were urging either to provide food relief including fuel or help them to go back to their hometown in Dolakha. We managed to provide relief that could sustain for nearly a month for her family. However, the challenges persisted as we could not get fuel instantly because shops were not opened. This is the most common problem that is being encountered by most wage labourers and members of their families. Specifically, in the families where there are senior citizens, single women, persons with disabilities, and those who don’t have adequate savings or other alternatives for livelihood.

What keeps you motivated in this critical situation?

When I was a child, I was taught by my parents to see positivity in every crisis. I always keep this in mind. This pandemic is not going to last forever. We need to collectively fight against this pandemic and create a better world in the days to come.

What are the challenges you face?

Frankly, the physical limits declared by the government against the enemy of humankind which we can’t see from the naked eye is the only challenge. For which, we humans have not found a solution so far.

How do you take care of your personal safety?

As suggested by WHO and Nepal Government, I have been strictly following the lockdown guidelines mostly limiting myself including my family within the boundaries of house, frequently washing hands, maintaining physical distance while going for grocery shopping or to the local government office.

Any expectations from the general public or the government

I expect the government to take all necessary initiation for restricting the spread of the COVID 19. While doing so, the government should consider all sections of people and their problems. On the other hand, I expect patience and prudential reaction from the general public.

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