Here is the full transcription:
Rahul Gandhi: Namaste, Good Afternoon, Good Evening. How are you?
Everyone: Fine Sir.
Rahul Gandhi: It is so nice to see you. All over the world. Indian nurses helping everybody. You make us very proud. Especially in this time.
Everyone: Thank you. Thank you sir.
Rahul Gandhi: We don’t often get to say this to you publicly but you are representatives of our country and you are doing us proud. Not just you, but millions of men and women, brothers and sisters like you. It is an honour for me to speak to you actually.
Everyone: Thank you. It is an honour for us also
Rahul Gandhi: You’d be wondering why I thought I should have a chat with you. There are couple of reasons. One is, there are some of you who are abroad, some of you who are working in India. All of you have a different experience. I wanted to have a conversation, so we could get a sense of what different people are seeing in different parts of the world and how they can help each other, or how you can advise some of our people or our people can advice you abroad. That is one aspect.
Second aspect is that I wanted to get a sense that you should feel, not just you, but as a community that you should feel that we are with you, we understand that you are doing a dangerous job. We understand that this is not an easy job. We understand that you are putting your lives on the line for this and we appreciate greatly what you are doing all over the world and in India. I would like to start by asking you to introduce yourselves.
Sherly: I’m Sherly I work in Liverpool, England. I have been here for more than 21 years.
Vipin: Rahul ji Namaskar. This is Vipin Krishnan. Im from Kerala. I’ve been working in AIIMS Delhi for the last 2 years.
Rahul Gandhi: Vipin ji you have had Corona?
Vipin: Rahulji unfortunately
Rahul Gandhi: You are both fighting the disease personally and also on behalf of AIIMS
Vipin: Both me and my wife are infected. We are right now in quarantine
Rahul Gandhi: I believe you are ok right now.
Vipin: Yes, I am perfectly ok Rahul Ji. Thank you
Rahul Gandhi: That is good news.
Narendra: Im Narendra Singh. I’m from Rajasthan, belong to the Sikar district. I’ve been working in nursing for 15 years. I did work in Jaipur, RML hospital and the last job I did was in Safdarjung before I left the country. Now I’m working in Australia, New South Wales Liverpool Hospital Intensive Care. I’ve been working there for four years. Have been looking after COVID patients. I think we learned a lot the last couple of months.
Anu: My name is Anu Ragnat. I’m from New Zealand. I came here in 2004. I work as clinical specialist for older people. In the community. Northland District Health Board, Whangarei. Thank you so much for taking this time to talk to us Indian nurses and you are really showing compassion. So thank you so much.
Rahul Gandhi: So this must be the most difficult time that you have faced. I don't think any of you would have seen anything of this scale. Can you give me a sense of how you are feeling while you are sort of in the front line?
Narendra: When this COVID started we initially thought this is a simple flu. And we thought that the flu is killing more people than COVID. So we didn't take this really seriously.
Once the COVID started rolling over and then we see the news every day. And then Italy and the mortality rate is going higher and higher. Then that time we started and thinking more, that this is not a flu. This is really serious. I think we have to take this one seriously and then we start preparing on that one. And then all the equipment, setting up the ICU, a different ICU that's especially dedicated for only for COVID patients.
Rahul Gandhi: Yes. Australia New Zealand have done pretty well.
Narendra: Yeah I think they did really. Well I totally agree with you
Anu: The cities like Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, they are pretty crowded. So it could have driven easily into five figures if New Zealanders were careless. So I think going hard and going early was the motto by the Prime Minister Jacinda. So she's done absolutely well. So I think going hard and early was really the right thing and that really flattened the curve in New Zealand.
Rahul Gandhi: And yeah, you mentioned that there was fear and obviously something like this will create fear among the patients, among those who think they're going to get sick, among the nurses, among the doctors. Can you give me a sense of what this fear was like in the hospitals? What did you feel? Were you worried that something might happen. What was the sense?
Sherly: For me, I work in an acute medical unit. So we receive patients directly from the community. So initially there was lot of fear. So who is going to catch this virus? Are the patients all coming in with this virus. So my personal experience was when I was seeing a patient and she came in with them, you know, no COVID symptoms, she only came in with the Diarrhoea and vomiting but because of her abdominal pain, I requested an abdominal X-ray and a chest X-ray. And her chest X-ray was reported within minutes and it came back as you know typical severe COVID chest X-ray. So that made us all really, you know, I wouldn't say paranoid but you know, it was very cautious.
So I did speak to my clinic directors, leaders and at that time that was the beginning of March. You know, even at the time in UK, you know, we were not even in the lockdown. So we've been told so we have to use the PPE, surgical mask, apron and gloves. So and since then I've been using that and we were seeing patients at the time, you know day after day and then we went into lockdown.
Rahul Gandhi: What is your experience in AIIMS? How are you? How are you feeling because their epidemic is winding down but our epidemic is picking up.
Vipin: Rahul ji you know our country’s condition better than me.
Rahul Gandhi: Do all of you understand Hindi? We’ll do a mix of Hindi and English.
Vipin: I would like to highlight some statistics. We have 1.2 million registered allopathic doctors in India. We have around 3.7 million registered nurses in India. When we are coming to the ratio, it is 1:1500 for doctors and 1.7:1000 nurses in India. The WHO recommended ratio is 1:1000 doctors and 3:1000 nurses when coming to the recommendations of the WHO. Running short in the scenario of Human Resources, but still we are fighting hard.
But in our country, the scenario is entirely different. There is a sea of difference between Government hospitals and Private hospitals in India.
Rahul Gandhi: What difference do you see?
Vipin: When we look into the private sector, there are a lot of discriminations. Private nurses are saying that their salaries are being cut. How will they care for their families during this pandemic? In such a situation, I think the Government must help them and pay their entire salaries. In this condition, it is difficult for them to survive.
You asked earlier if we are scared? I don’t think we are scared of the Coronavirus pandemic. To save the country, we have to fight at the frontlines. My own experience showed that I was not scared but not that I’ve been infected, I’m still not scared. I want to tell you and the Government that once I recover, I want to go back to the COVID ward.
Rahul Gandhi: I am surprised by the fact, I’ve been informed that testing isn’t being allowed in many hospitals in Delhi.
Vipin: This is indeed a sad state of affairs. I want to inform you about some statistics. On May 27, the infection rate in Delhi was 13.7% we were doing 7000 tests per day. By June 12-13, our infection rate had crossed 30% and we are doing under 5000 tests per day. This is surprising given that our deaths and infection rates are increasing, but we have reduced testing. I don’t understand what is happening Rahul ji.
Rahul Gandhi: One of the doctor I was speaking to in a private hospital was telling me, that it becomes impossible for them to work if they cannot test COVID patients. If they don’t know if the patient has COVID or not, they don’t know where to put him. Putting two patients, one who has COVID and one who doesn’t have COVID next to each other. So they were saying that they are completely frustrated and do not know how to move forward.
I think little bit is that the governments are trying to manage the perception, they are trying to give a sense that the problem is not as bad as it is. But I believe that look we have to face the problem, so we should accept the problem, define the problem accurately and then fight the problem. I don’t know how you react to that.
Vipin: You are absolutely correct. We have a pandemic situation and AIIMS Director has said that we will peak in June-mid July. So even the Delhi CM has stated that they are expecting 5.5. lakh cases. We are having 10,000 beds in Delhi. Can you imagine the depth of the situation where 5.5 lakh people are coming, of course they won’t come at the same time, but average 1 lakh patients a day. I can’t imagine the depth of the situation. What will be do?
Rahul Gandhi: How will the people from abroad react to this?
Anu: I just want to ask Vipin:. So you are on sick leave at the moment. Is that being paid or are they paying you for this length right now ?
Vipin: Right now the institution has told that it's paid but since it is a pandemic, lots of people are getting infected, Especially healthcare workers.
I'm even worried about that. So right now they're telling it's paid but I don't know what will happen in the future time.
Anu: How easy it was for you to get the testing done though. Was it okay for you, was it accessible?
Vipin: Yes. My turn was little okay, but when by wife’s turn came, she had to wait for a complete 10 hours. It was little worrying and it was a little sad incident for me.
Anu: Yeah that it's quite upsetting as a family.
Narendra: I want to add one of the point, you say that very hard to do testing. Yeah. So as Rahul ji mentioned that you go to private hospital and they can't test it. If you go to Private Hospital and then you can’t test it is very hard to manage. Because you can spread very easily to the other staff as well and then the whole hospital staff can get infected. And then so the testing is very important, as much as you do your social distancing and other measure you use for preventing Covid-19.
Rahul Gandhi: So looking back, for the people who are abroad. What is your biggest learning from this epidemic? What would be your advice to Indian hospitals, Indian nurses, Indian doctors, now that you've been through it. What would you say are the key things that one has to look at?
Narendra: Wash your hand. You have to wash the hand, during the day like I do in a 12-hour shift, we wash a hundred times. Put a proper PPE. That’s my concern. I was talking to one of my friend, he works in Delhi. We used to work together. He told me that a lot of staff and doctors are getting positive now, which is one of them being Vipin: as well. This is a matter of concern.
It means there's something missing in that. Either we are not putting properly PPE or we are not using hand sanitizer properly or we not self-isolating or maybe we are asymptomatic carrier then.
Rahul Gandhi: So you also have children. They must be very worried that you're going into the middle of the hospital where everybody has COVID. Can I get somebody else to come in?
Sherly: My personal experience is that my husband is actually in high risk category and he was in shielding. So because I've been working with the COVID patients, so I had to move out of my home leaving my husband and my children for six weeks. Now I've gone back. Two weeks ago I went back home and it's because the numbers are coming down. The number of patients in the hospital is coming down now and my management is so supportive of me.
Here in UK, it is so respectful, people are so respectful. We have dedicated shopping time for the NHS staff or the care workers. Every Thursday the government is, you know, putting it as the clapping for carers and things like that. So it is so supportive, all supermarkets are very supportive.
Rahul Gandhi: So you feel like you're being backed up by the government fully? Yes. Do you feel that in AIIMS at all?
Vipin: Rahul ji I would like to bring something to your attention. It’s important and a matter of concern. Two nurses have died in Delhi, they were from South India. One X-ray technician. One retired doctor from AIIMS passed away and one serving person in the sanitation department, we lost him unfortunately. However, they are yet to receive the compensation of Rs. 1 crore announced by the Delhi Government. It is not that we can give some amount of money and equalise the death. It is not that, but at least we should support the families. The government should do something for them.
I want to bring this to your notice since you are the opposition leader.
Rahul Gandhi: I’ll write a letter and see if we can expedite that.
Vipin: Secondly, nurses don't come under the risk allowance category of the Government of India. Both nurses and doctors. As healthcare workers we are fighting this COVID in the front line like the Army. It's like, we can compare this like a biowar. It is not a biowar, but a virus, a small microscopic oRahul Gandhi:anism is challenging the whole world and the country. So we are fighting like the Army or the Air Force. I'm not comparing this with our Force. But at least I think you will agree with that we are fighting as an Army.
Rahul Gandhi: Yes, you are a nonviolent Army
Vipin: Thank you Rahul Ji. I would like to bring into your kind consideration that risk allowance should be given to nurses and doctors at least at this point of time because we are losing lives. We are exhausted and we are fighting in the front line without any fear. We will win. You and the Government are with us. I have complete faith that we will fight this war against the Coronavirus and win.
Rahul Gandhi: I asked a question to all of you, how does your family and children feel about this. How are you caring for them? Because they must be worried that their mom and dad are working in the midst of this big pandemic. How are you managing that?
Anu: From the New Zealand Government, one of the first things announced by the Health Minister was a 10 million package for Health Workers. So that includes accommodation funding. Like Sherly's case, like if you don't want to go back home to an immunocompromised family member, you can stay either in hospital or in a nearby motels and the government would pay for that. Listening to the rest of the team, I feel like we are in a blessed position actually.
Rahul Gandhi: So tell me one thing. Why is it that Indian nurses are valued so
much abroad. What is it that, wherever I go, I went to the Middle East and they took me to a hospital there. And then in the hospital, they said look if we didn't have Indian nurses, we could not run our hospital.
Sherly: I have to say that. Sorry and that Indian nurses are very hardworking. They dedicate, you know, dedicate their life to the profession. They don't care about themselves. They see the patients in front of them as either their parents, their children, their mother, their brother or sister. So that's probably the thing.
Anu: I think a lot of COVID wards, like we've got people Indian nurses in managerial roles and planning not just on the floor. And yeah definitely in the floor and in the community, there's a lot of Indian nurses.
I think we are go getters, in the front line. You don't think twice you know, and education. And education, the way our course, our curriculum is being designed, I think we are ready to cope in any country in any situation, in any scenario. Our background that education, that concrete education curriculum is really backing us. I think and it's easier for Indian nurses to cope in any division. We easily adapt being in few other roles before this and what I felt is like yeah, you're in there for two months and yeah, you kind of learn just quite quickly it's just all because of your background concrete education. And again as Sherly said we are quite compassionate by nature.
Rahul Gandhi: And how can we help Indian nurses and doctors who are fighting this battle, whether abroad or in India? What is the main thing that we should be trying to help you with? What should we be doing to help you?
Narendra: Thank you for asking us. Please keep talking to us, we’ll keep sharing our experience. You’ll share your experience. We always love India. It’s very nice that you spoke to us.
Vipin: In policy making I don’t think our voice is being heard. When a policy is being made relating to the nursing profession or the medical profession, the experts in that profession should be asked for their inputs. Then only the policies should be made. Unfortunately that has not been happening in our country. Many organisation’s leaders are not being called when it comes to policy making decisions.
Rahul Gandhi: In this COVID battle, was there any experience that was positive for you? That this was a very happy. Can you describe one experience like that.
Anu: I think here and you in New Zealand again, the communication between the government and healthcare health workers, it was really good. Daily at 1 p.m. during that five weeks lock down, our Health Minister and our President would come and do the press conference and I think almost pretty much all the New Zealanders will be tuned to hear these numbers, the levels. And the president herself, she made us feel responsible for participating and winning this battle. The leadership styles was one of empathy in a crisis.
Sherly: Yeah my positive experience. I would like to say about you know, during the weekends, during all this pandemic COVID cohort unit, you know developed and working. The weekend unit I worked in, none of the nurses had COVID, you know, this was so it was such a brilliant news for us, you know, because we had 20 patients and you know all patients were admitted there were COVID positive patients. None of the nurses had COVID. So that's good news. That was brilliant news for us.
Rahul Gandhi: So the my last my last question in all this, of course, the non COVID patients have a completely different trajectory because the hospital is occupied by COVID patients.
Sherly: Not all of them. Not all of the hospitals. We have in our accident and emeRahul Gandhi:ency departments, there is a red zone and there is a green zone. So patients who were exhibiting the symptoms of COVID are put in the red Zone and other patients who are no coming with the COVID symptoms are being sent to the green zone.
So once everybody is getting swabbed, everybody's getting tested. So this is the only way we know, and now we are not seeing many patients.
Vipin: I think your question is more relevant to India. The OPD in many government hospitals aren’t functioning. We have no way out. We have to think about how to help non COVID patients. I have also received many calls, eg. cancer patients, they are asking for help but we are unable to help. Majority of the beds are being allocated for COVID, not just in AIIMS but in most Government hospitals.
Rahul Gandhi: I think it is important that people also hear different voices. So that's why I'm holding these conversations whether it is with nurses or its experts in their field or it's mAnu:al labourers who ever. But I feel everybody that makes up India should have a voice, should be heard. So I find you have given quite a good perspective.
Narendra: So if we work as a team, then we can win against COVID-19
Rahul Gandhi: So I'd like to thank all of you very much for your time. I know it's valuable because you're involved in the fight against COVID. So, thank you very much and I'm very proud of you. All of you for the work you are doing. Not only you but also millions of nurses and doctors like you, who are from our country are doing an excellent job in India and abroad.
Vipin: Thank you, Rahul ji, for your precious time and for this conversation.
Anu: Thank you for everything you’ve done for Wayanad, I should say that too.
Everyone Thank you.