Gangtok: The first batch of health workers attending to the only COVID-19 patient in Sikkim were discharged of their duties after seven days of service and sent for quarantine to Lemon Tree Hotel in Sichey on Saturday. The team consisting of four doctors, 16 nurses, four medical attendants, four sanitary workers, technicians, lab technicians had been treating the patient and residing at the Annexure Building in STNM Hospital premises in Gangtok.
The second group took charge after their departure, and consists of 40 health workers at the disposal of the patient. The first batch of health workers have undergone the testing through RT PCR and their samples are at the Viral Lab in STNM, informed STNM Hospital medical superintendent Dr Passang D Phempu.
“We have tested the health workers yesterday and results are awaited, we are hopeful that the results will come through as negative for them. They have been in service for seven days, they will be under quarantine for 14 days, but if the samples come through as negative and second set of testing will be done around the 14th day since their exposure to the patient on May 22 and May 23. Also, we may give them early leave and sent them for home quarantine depending on the safety,” Phempu added.
The medical superintendent also extended his gratitude to chief minister PS Golay and state government for facilitating free quarantine for the health workers.
On the proposal for referrals of non-COVID patients being shifted or referred to Central Referral Hospital, Manipal, the medical superintendent said, “There was a meeting that was attended by the health minister, principal secretary health, VC SMU, dean and medical superintendent of Manipal, the issue of referrals to Manipal was discussed thoroughly. Government is in the process of referring patients to Manipal, except OPD function, from here. The patients needing admission, treatment and operation will be shifted to Manipal, which will take the load of patients away from STNM but depends on whether Manipal can take the load or not.”
STNM has 300 beds for COVID treatment and observation, while 600 beds are for the non-COVID patients. “If the COVID cases rise up, we are planning on expanding to those 600 beds as well, with patients being discharged and referred, we can make more room for COVID”, he added.
The medical superintendent asserted on the requirement for more manpower, if the cases increase. “Health Workers of STNM can be free from normal services of hospital and be devoted to the COVID part of the hospital. In the course of one week duty and 14 days of quarantine, it so will happen, we may get depletion of health care workers, later,” he said.
On question of Manipal taking in patients, Dr Passang said, “They are taking in patients, there are patients who have Sikkim subject and COI, they will be referred and accepted under Mukhya Mantri Jiwan Kosh Yojana and the money would be referred. In the case of Non-COI, we are still not clear on how to handle the situation”.
On how the COVID positive patient is being treated, the Medical Superintendent said, “The patient, is fine, he has no symptoms, only the day he came he was showing symptoms. We immediately started medication after which he is fine and happy inside the isolation ward. In the second test which we conducted on the fifth day of his admission, the viral load in his body had reduced. Virus is still there, he is still shedding virus, therefore, he is supposed to stay here. We expect to keep him for 14 days but we will test him after his discharge as well. Once that test is negative he is safe to go outside”.
Elsewhere, all the primary contacts have tested negative, they have been put under special quarantine. “It might have been day zero of contact, to be surer all these contacts have been shifted down to Farmers Hostel in Sokeythang to maintain isolation. They will be tested again in 5 days, once it comes negative they will be sent back to facility quarantine or home quarantine”, he said.
On the functioning of the virology lab beginning at STNM from Saturday, Dr Passang said, “The viral lab established in hospital has been functional from today, with tests for first batch of 12 sample being conducted. The samples have been validated by another lab, so lab is in a position to carry out its own tests. Henceforth we won’t have to send any samples for testing to NBMCH in Siliguri. Since it’s an initial phase we may not be able to take too many shifts, just about 90-180 samples in a day. As and when our staff becomes experienced and proficient we will increase number”.
Dr Passang asserted that the lab is sufficient for the population of Sikkim. “There are still back logs in the NBMCH which have to be cleared, they will clear it. If we have space and place in the future we can take samples from Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the future. Since its a molecular lab, in future test for all other viral studies, hepatitis C, hepatitis B, all these can be done here. We can do research works as well.”