The disclosure of the first Covid-19 positive case on 5 March had a record number of people running to the Flu Clinic set up by the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Thimphu. More than 600 people visited the flu clinic that day, and the numbers are now around 300 to 400 people in a day.
During the Covid-19 press briefing on 10 March, the Health Minister, Dechen Wangmo, said the flu clinics in Paro and Punakha received 301 and 136 people in a day respectively. The other dzongkhags saw much lower number of people visiting the hospital for check up. In Sarpang, around 77 patients visited hospital, Monggar received 132 patients.
Specialist in General Practice and In-charge of the Flu Clinic of JDWNRH, Dr Dhrupthob Sonam said patients visiting flu clinic are of all age groups including under five children.
The doctor said the health staff works in shifts at the clinic. The morning shift is staffed with three doctors, two nurses, two receptionist, two pharmacy personnel, 4 lab technicians, and two cleaners, as it is the busiest time. In the evening, one doctor, one receptionist, one nurse, two pharmacy personnel, and two lab technicians man the clinic, and the same number of staff works the night shift. The clinic receives just around 20 patients at night.
The doctor also shared that they do not have any problems or challenges as such for now. The patients and the health staff are asked to maintain a distance of one meter in order to minimize the risk of catching the flu and even the possible Covid-19. The health workers also use protective gears, Dr added.
“We use the case definition to screen the suspects. If there are any suspects, we try to minimize the contact time and immediately without doing much examination, we send the patient for testing and quarantine, and after that, if the result is negative, we can advise the patient to come back for further examination,” said Dr Dhrupthob Sonam.
As health caregivers, doctors cannot shy away from the work, but caution must be taken to minimize the risks. It is time for all of us to come forward and work more than what one has been doing from the routine work, said Dr Dhrupthob.
“I am willing to work more than six hours. and even during Saturdays and Sundays because it is my profession,” said Dr Dhrupthob Sonam.
The Health Minister said health workers face great risk, but in terms of protection, Lyonpo said the health workers wear the full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) before entering the isolated area.
As a precaution the doctors taking care of the index patient will not go treating any other patient in the hospital. The three doctors that were treating the positive Covid-19 patient do not treat any other patient and are kept in separate isolated facility for the doctors for two weeks. After two weeks, they go through the whole procedure and then they will be taken to a quarantine facility where they will be quarantined for 14 days.
Lyonpo said these are very extreme precautions that the ministry insists upon. If the COVID- 19 cases are many, like in China, then it is definite that the risks for health workers will increase because of the sheer number of cases one has to see. So that is going to strain our limited resources, added Dr Dhrupthob Sonam.