Dr Shafir Kassim completed a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2018 and an MSc in Tropical Medicine and International Health in 2019. He is currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine for Kasturba Medical College Hospital, Mangalore. In this blog piece, he discusses how COVID-19 has changed all aspects of his work.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work?
I resumed my services at the hospital as a Consultant in Internal Medicine from September 2019, upon returning from London after completing my Masters and Diploma from LSHTM. I was slowly getting accustomed to my regular workplace when the news about the emergence of a new virus in China came to light. Things slowly started changing at my hospital since then, and by March changes took a different dimension in the form of compulsorily wearing a face mask, strict hand hygiene, social distancing and visitor restrictions inside the hospital. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis would have been happy seeing physicians strictly following hand hygiene.
The smiling face of the physician was hidden behind the N95 mask, and the soul of medicine was lost due to minimal touch policy. Initially, there was a lot of anxiety concerning receiving and treating these patients at our hospital, as there was no standard operating procedure available. We started working in hospital for three days and working from home for three days. This was something which we were not accustomed to as doctors. All this was done to protect and reduce the spread of the disease inside the hospital premises. Multiple teams had to be built, responsibilities had to be shared, and policies for running the hospital had to be formulated. I was appointed as the nodal officer for COVID -19 in my hospital as well. My new line of work included involvement in administration, along with being a consultant.
How have you been responding to the outbreak?
I had to shift my attention to policy-making to ensure the preparedness of our hospital as per Indian Government Protocols. I had to put aside treating other diseases like non-communicable diseases, tropical infections and the like, only to treat COVID-19 suspect and positive patients. I was updating myself by reading various national and international journals. To sum up, I was eating, sleeping and breathing COVID – 19.
How has your country’s response to the outbreak affected your work?
Our country has taken a lot of effort to flatten the curve by doing an early and successful lockdown. This was probably the biggest lockdown the world shall ever witness. This initiative has helped to reduce the disease burden in the country to a great extent and also enabled us to equip the hospitals to deal with this pandemic. Despite this, individual states in our country are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. Presently, Unlock 2.0 is going on, because of which the cases can rise again. Citizens will be crossing interstate borders, and a majority of them might be asymptomatic carriers. In addition to this, international flights shall resume services shortly, which will again bring in more overseas cases. Presumably, this lockdown has helped to contain the community spread of the disease to a certain extent.
How has LSHTM’s training helped you during this outbreak?
Getting trained in the clinical aspect of infectious disease, preparedness and response to an outbreak have helped me render my services at the hospital during this crisis period in an effective manner. This training also has aided me in preparing infection control protocols for keeping the healthcare workers and patients safe.
The world is going through a difficult time, and we should all unite, rise to the challenge, put in our best foot forward and win our fight against COVID – 19 pandemic.
I wear a mask to protect you, and you wear a mask to protect me.
Interviewer: Okuda Taylor.