Sanjay Kumar*, a healthcare worker in his 40s, risks his life on a daily basis as he has no choice because he has to obey the orders of his seniors in the government hospital where he works.

“I am an operation theatre (OT) technician yet I am required to obtain swabs of suspected coronavirus patients ever since the pandemic hit Hyderabad,” shared Kumar*, adding that, “It’s not my job but if I don’t do it I’ll be fired or transferred.”

Taking samples of over 50 suspected patients every day, Kumar fears for his life and the future of his loved ones in case he is infected. “I leave everything to God when I show up for work,” he explained.

Elaborating why he is collecting samples, Kumar says doctors do not come forward to get the nasopharyngeal swabs as it is a delicate — and dangerous — task as the patient could be a carrier of the deadly pathogen.

Without adequate personal protective equipment from the hospital management, Kumar said, “I am always thinking what will happen if an infected patient sneezes or coughs and the droplets enter my mouth or nose while I am taking their sample. The safety measures are not up to the desired levels.”

Taking care of their own

Hyderabad – the second largest city of Sindh – has been constantly reporting COVID-19 cases since March 10 when the first positive case of coronavirus – a woman pilgrim from Iran – was reported here. She has since recovered successfully.

A high number of hospital sanitary workers – mostly from religious minorities – have been infected by coronavirus as well, and Amjad Masih is one of them. In fact, he was the first sanitary worker of any government hospital in Hyderabad to be infected. Since then, many doctors and paramedics have been affected in various hospitals.

The city’s initial spike in cases was attributed to members of the Tableeghi Jamaat — a religious group — who arrived from up country. A high number of them were admitted in the hospital where Masih works.

“After testing positive for Covid-19, I was severely depressed,” said Masih, adding that he was somewhat relieved that his family was in Karachi so would not contract the virus from him. During his treatment, Masih remained in quarantine in the same hospital until he was declared negative for the virus. He was thankful to the hospital staff and high-ups for taking care of him.

The 38-year-old sanitary worker is now working in the hospital’s outpatient department. The hospital has been turned into an isolation centre for the Latifabad taluka of Hyderabad.

To-date, Hyderabad has had 1,434 cases of coronavirus with 41 deaths in total.

*Name changed to protect identity.

June 22, 2020

On the frontlines in Hyderabad

Sanjay Kumar*, a healthcare worker in his 40s, risks his life on […]