Firstpost Podcast: How does a hospital prepare for coronavirus; an expert explains

How are hospitals dealing with the numerous patients who arrive with coronavirus symptoms? With the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases each day, how do healthcare professionals and hospitals in India prepare for the coming storm?


In this episode, Dr. Aiswarya speaks to Dr. Uma Devi, a professor of medicine at Stanley Medical College in Chennai, who is currently at the forefront of the coronavirus task force in Tamil Nadu. Dr. Uma Devi explains what is being done to ensure strict hygiene practices in hospitals, while taking us through the journey that a patient takes in a coronavirus virus wing. You can hear the full episode here. Here is the complete transcript of the interview.


This is the first day of the national blockade for dealing with the coronavirus crisis in India. Frontline health professionals put the interests of their patients with COVID-19 infection ahead of their personal interests and that of their families. This is the commitment shown by these professionals. Our appreciation for them goes beyond words.


I am Dr. Aiswarya Rao, a pediatrician and public health consultant, and today I speak with Dr. Uma Devi, professor of medicine at the Stanley Medical College and Government Hospital in Chennai. She works 24 hours in the coronavirus clinic and in the ward created by the Tamil Nadu Department of Health.



An: Hello!
Aiswarya: Hi Dr. Uma!

YOU: Yes, hello Aiswarya!

AN: How are you?

YOU: Yes, I am … continuing. Life goes on.


AN: You are a frontline medical professional, especially in this current coronavirus crisis. So, I just wanted to talk to you and understand you, as it is, to be so close to this crisis that we are not all sure.


YOU: Yes.

AN: I have some questions for you and I will be very happy if you can explain to us briefly, and I believe your answers and everything you say to us will be very … um … it will help us understand what the government is doing us and what you're doing for people who will suffer from COVID-19 disease.

YOU: Sure, sure

AN: I just want to understand how the government of Stanley Medical College in Chennai is preparing to manage people who will be positive for the coronavirus when they go to the hospital for hospitalization.

YOU: So now, whenever a patient comes to us with a travel history, fever, cough, sore throat … so every day now the criteria are evolving. As on that day, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is issuing a notification. So, based on that day, we also evolved. So, it's an evolving process. So, from now on, what the Ministry said is that people with a sore throat, fever, dry cough, if they come with a travel history from a region affected by the crown, first or if they come with just a contact, we we divide them into whether or not they have symptoms. If the patient does not show symptoms and comes from these affected areas, we advise quarantining at home. 14 days plus 14 days. A total of 28 days. They must be symptom-free. That is the strict advice we give you. Now, if you have mild symptoms, such as coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, we do two tests. First, we do a complete blood count and do an X-ray. Now all of this is done in an isolated area. We are not sure of these patients.

AN: Can you describe your hospital's facilities? Did you have to create new wings or were the existing wings transformed into …?

YOU: No. We changed the available wards … because that was a very acute need and we cannot search for new spaces, whatever was available, we used the resources and transformed ourselves into an isolation OP – an OP COVID and a bathroom; the injection OP was moved out and these rooms were converted into rooms where services were needed.

AN: In your hospital, how many beds are reserved for this COVID

YOU: As of now, 31 beds are ready

AN: And can you describe all the people involved in this corona care?

YOU: So the staff involved is, of course, the front line – the part of the doctors who is a graduate or junior resident, there is an assistant professor and a professor who oversees all of this. Now at the OP, we have three shifts of … this is about doctors. Nurses too, dedicated nurses are there. So, we divided the OP and the isolation wing. So, for the OP there is a lot and for the infirmary, there is a set of personnel … they are doctors, nurses and, of course, the workers who do the cleaning part, every three hours, spraying the surface, cleaning everything that. So, these are the people involved.

AN: And are you working day and night? How are the changes and how did you organize this?

YOU: Round the clock, round the clock.

AN: And do you have enough personal protective equipment? Sufficient masks and hand sanitizers?

YOU: Yes Yes. Whatever is appropriate. The government provided adequately.

AN: Good! There was some training or guidance, we know that there are guidelines and advice issued by MOHFW, but this is a new disease and how are you updating yourself in terms of knowledge and scientific management?

YOU: So, they gave us the MOHFW website and we are all already doctors, and so … they asked us to go through it and update us. And when we receive our remittances from the government, our dean ensures that this is passed on to us.

AN: Okay, we hear everything that’s going on at your hospital and ask in person. Describe your feelings for me while you are involved in this work and how you are there, how do you feel?

YOU: So there is definitely a feeling of fear. Initially, we had this panic reaction between our junior residents and everyone else, so our more experienced colleagues sat down and advised them and now they do the job, but the fear component is always there.

AN: Always there, right! And how do your family and children feel about it? What are they telling you?

YOU: Uh … they're like … of course, they're worried. But I think they are keeping a brave face. Because we have to face it. So, I think I have good support. All of us, medical professionals, are receiving good support from our families.

AN: Describe the climate in your hospital. Last night, we saw the tweets from the Minister of Health of Tamil Nadu. He visited the hospital in the middle of the night and praised his professionalism and his staff. But just describe the atmosphere in the infirmary and clinic for us, Uma.

YOU: All health professionals and teams are now ready to work … the climate now, with all the motivation that is coming, is that everyone is ready to do their best.

AN: Wow!! These are very early days. The next few days will be very challenging and we really appreciate your service, Uma. It was lovely to talk to you, bye.

YOU: Thanks.


So if you are scared and isolated, know that doctors and other frontline health professionals and their families are also scared. But they are getting the best out of a bad situation, presenting the interests of their patients. On the first day of this block, if you're thinking about maybe just going out on a mission, just because you're bored, think of those on the front lines and have a WhatsApp video conference with your friends and family. Stay at home. Do this for our healthcare professionals.

I'm Dr. Aiswarya Rao and I'll be back soon with my next podcast. Thanks for listening.

Update date: March 25, 2020 10:13:10 PM


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