A Covid warrior from Panchkula

At the Civil ­Hospital in Panchkula, Dr Rita Kalra, Admin Head, leads a specialist team to monitor round-the-clock the ­isolation and OPD wards to counsel those ­susceptible to the corona pandemic, ­educating them on hygiene, diet and a healthy lifestyle that includes yoga and meditation. Ever since the virus outbreak, the 350-bed district ­hospital near Chandigarh has been transformed into a ­dedicated Covid Health Centre with special wards, labs etc in no time.

Dr Rita Kalra with a patient at an ICU.

At this hospital, Dr Rita, a past president of RC ­Chandigarh Midtown, RID 3080, heads the HR department which has 1,000 employees including doctors, paramedics and non-medical staff. Some of her key responsibilities include infection control, upkeep of hospital records and ramping up medical facilities. “After the WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic, we had to set up an exclusive Flu OPD for screening patients and migrant families,” she said. Setting up Covid isolation wards and an ICU and supervising their ­effective functioning during the lockdown was a big challenge.

“We also prescribe a suitable diet regimen for Covid patients made possible through donations from NGOs and personal contributions. Our team has installed a molecular lab for Covid testing,” said Dr Rita.

Isolation wards

Right from early morning, Dr Rita visits all the six isolation wards with over 100 beds for Covid patients, offering counsel and interacting with duty staff. She also checks the quality of special food being served to patients. The hospital gets around 250 people at the Flu OPD and 40 Covid ­suspects with fever and flu symptoms in a day. “On an average we get seven ICU admissions per day and so far have recorded zero deaths. Out of over 200 Covid patients who were treated here, 150 have fully recovered and sent back.”

With rising Covid infections, the 22-bed ICU is being expanded and a revised HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system has been put in place to provide a germ-free environment for patients, she said. A plasma therapy facility will be set up at the hospital’s blood bank with approval from the ICMR soon.

Most of the Covid-­related facilities, PPE kits and equipment at this hospital were funded through government grants, MPLADS (MP Local Area Development Scheme), and contributions from NGOs such as Rotary which has instituted Covid Disaster Response Funds for quick disbursal of grants for Covid relief work. “I have applied for a global grant for two ambulances (vans) to strengthen Covid surveillance in outreach camps,” Dr Rita said.

It has been hectic over the last four months with lockdown and Covid cases acting as a ‘double whammy’. Heading the Covid team and managing the hospital is a tightrope walk.

Covid team

Dr Rita leads a ­five- member Covid emergency response team that operates in three shifts. “We have a roster system that allows doctors to visit Covid patients once a week in turns to monitor at least 20–25 people a day.” A healthy lifestyle is possible only through education and awareness on hygiene, ­sanitation, nutrition and exercise for physical, mental and social well-being, she explained.

Multi-tasking expert

It has been a hectic professional life for her over the last four months with lockdown and Covid cases acting as a ‘double whammy’. Heading the Covid team as well as managing the hospital affairs is a tightrope walk, but she finds her regular yoga and meditation sessions useful to “fight stress and anxiety. I also find time for community-connect through Rotary.”

Dr Rita Kalra with a newborn and the mother.
Dr Rita Kalra with a newborn and the mother.

Prabha (38) and Kavita (25), who came out of the Covid infection nightmare, were all praise for Dr Rita and her team for their “compassion and sound advice with dos and don’ts to overcome the infection.” Another patient, Pradeep (40), said he felt at home given the cordial environment at the hospital. RC ­Chandigarh Midtown President Sanjay ­Bhatia said, “Dr Rita is the driving force in putting up support systems and taking preventive care initiatives at the ­hospital during the pandemic.” Her out-of-box ideas for patients, staff and ­medical teams are steps ahead of standard protocols, he said.

With a ‘never-say-die’ attitude and her dedication in giving 100 per cent to the community, “Dr Rita is an iron lady of Panchkula,” said Club Secretary Shuchi Thakur.

“While we have positioned ourselves as a Covid health ­centre at the moment, our aim is to turn it into a ­fully-dedicated Covid hospital. Our next effort is to set up an ICU, OT and delivery room for giving specialised care to pregnant women who have tested positive and their newborns,” she added.

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