Chandigarh, April 4
His last meeting with the family was just a few minutes long—the time it takes to have a cup of tea. And this was sipped outside the front door.
Dr Gurpal Kataria is posted at Punjab government hospital in Nawanshahr, a coronavirus hotspot. The front line doctor and his team are taking care of the 18 infected patients admitted at the isolation ward there.
The doctor has little time now to visit his family in Jalandhar, 60 km away. He keeps in touch over the phone but the last, brief visit was two weeks back.
“I did not enter the home as a precautionary measure, just saw them and then returned on duty,” he says.
Kataria's wife is a dentist at the Hoshiarpur civil hospital.
“My daughter, who has taken the class 10 exams, always tells me to take care. She also feels proud that her parents are serving people,” he says.
Nawanshahr has reported 19 coronavirus cases so far, the highest number from any district in Punjab where the count was 53 on Saturday morning.
A 70-year-old patient has died in Nawanshahr. Eighteen others, including a two-and-a-half-year-old child and three women, are in the isolation ward of the civil hospital, waiting for the day their tests results show negative.
Kataraia says a major concern is the patients' morale. They often ask doctors about the coronavirus count, worrying how many people have died each day.
“For us this is like a place of worship, where we get a sense of satisfaction when we see happiness on the faces of our patients,” says the 54-year-old doctor.
“We counsel our patients on a regular basis and tell them there is no need to be scared, and they will be fine. We try to keep them in positive frame of mind and keep their morale high,” Kataria says. “We do not let them feel that they are stuck here.” “When they go back from here, they will certainly remember us,” he says.
He says all arrangements are in place at the government hospital to deal with any coronavirus eventuality. Medical teams are on standby, in case there is a spike.
Kataria's own team—which includes a microbiologist, a rural medical officer, a pharmacist and a lab technician—stays in houses within the hospital complex.
“I and my team are available round the clock here,” he tells PTI over the phone.
Kataria got his MD degree from the Amritsar government medical college. His experience at the time of swine flu outbreak in 2009 has helped him in dealing with the coronavirus cases, he says. PTI
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