Published on May 07, 2021

AHMEDABAD: Dr Gunjan Trivedi (name changed), a CMO at 1,200-bed hospital on Wednesday braced herself up yet again, as she dialled the number. She remained composed while starting her conversation with “I have a bad news for you. Be brave. Your father is no more. We tried our best to revive him, but as you know, he was critical”.

“We are used to long pauses – most often, people take a long time to process the information. Then comes denial, despair and pain,” says Dr Trivedi, who is one of the four doctors who make the ‘most difficult call’ to the patients’ relatives. “The response often starts with, ‘He was well when we last talked to him’, but we have to appraise them of the health condition and listen to their side.”

Hospital authorities too understand its psychological implications. A senior official told TOI that no person is given duty for more than two days at a stretch. “It’s not at all a mechanical process – they take some time between calls to regain their composure. Initial few days are most difficult as the caller experiences the entire spectrum of emotions – from complete denial and pleas to check again to resignation to fate,” said a senior official.

Ahmedabad city is recording average deaths of 20 to 25 Covid patients daily for the past one month. On Thursday, the number dropped to16. Civil Hospital officials said that an SOP is already in place for the callers to avoid any medico-legal issues later. All have different mechanisms to beat the blues, said the doctors. The shifts change fast at A0 ward where the dead body management team works closely with other parts of the Covid care system.

Civil Hospital officials said that an SOP is already in place for the callers to avoid any medico-legal issues later

The authorities refused to divulge the number of deaths in a day, but accepted that the volume has increased compared to January-February.

“I have lost two members of my extended family. I can understand the pain one feels – but kin don’t deserve any delay. The initial calls were the most difficult calls I made in my life,” said another junior doctor associated with the process.

Doctors on call duty say they practice some sort of yoga or wellness regime to keep themselves physically and mentally upbeat. “We also unwind by viewing comedy or dance shows. It also turns some into more extroverted persons, trying to connect with other family members more often than pre-Covid times.”

The team members said that they turn more sympathetic towards the families and try to expedite the process to reduce their trauma. “In the first wave, there were a few instances where none came to claim the body out of stigma or all members of the family getting infected. But this time around, the stigma is less. We have not reported any unclaimed body so far,” said a doctor.

Dr Neelam Kapadia, CMO of the Covid control room, said she has made regular calls to her family members who test Corona positive. “We make calls connecting with hundreds on a daily basis for their requirements ranging from oxygen to food. We have also seen how a video call with a family member completely lights up a patient. This taught me to connect more with my ailing relatives,” said Dr Kapadia, adding that he got recuperated from the infection.

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