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It’s a labour of love for doctors at Madurai GRH

The labour ward of the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) has been seeing a minimum of 45 deliveries each day apart from the births at the COVID-19 speciality hospital since March.

In addition to handling complicated deliveries redirected from Primary Health Centres (PHCs) across the district, doctors must also be additionally cautious to ensure that mothers and newborns in the labour ward are safe from COVID-19, says a doctor.

Head of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department of the GRH, N. Sumathi, says that in January and February, the department saw around 1,100 to 1,200 deliveries, roughly amounting to around 40 deliveries each day in the Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) block.

When COVID-19 began, assistant professors and post graduate doctors had to be divided so as to cater to antenatal mothers who had tested positive for COVID-19, says Dr. Sumathi.

“It was decided that six assistant professors in three shifts would take charge in the CEmONC building and four in the COVID-19 specialty hospital. “Incidentally during this period of division of labour, we saw a surge in the number of referrals from private hospitals and PHCs. Now, we conduct around 50 deliveries each day. It is a lot of pressure but doctors are doing a tremendous work,” she says.

In the last week alone they have had 47 deliveries in the COVID-19 specialty block apart from the usual deliveries in the CEmONC block.

A doctor said staff nurses and health workers must wear personal protection equipment in the CEmONC building too as anyone could be a carrier of the disease. “We have a strict protocol. If they have positive test results, the mothers are directly sent to the COVID-19 specialty hospital. If they have symptoms at the labour ward, they are tested and kept in isolation,” the doctor says.

Dr. Sumathi says that as a precaution, the number of attenders coming for each delivery is restricted to one or two. “Usually, families of 10 people will arrive to see the newborn child. We are not allowing any of that now. Only one attender is allowed to stay with the patient,” she says. She adds that anyone who steps into the hospital must wear mask. Disinfection is done aggressively as well.

Despite the fewer number of staff , there is no place for fatigue. Paediatricians who are present at the labour ward take charge of the newborn immediately and either hand it over to the mother or admit it to the intensive care unit in case of complications, she says.

“It is a lot of work but has been great to see everyone rise up to the occasion,” she says.

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