Nima | Gelephu

The vehicles on Covid-19 duty are parked in front of the Gelephu central regional referral hospital (CRRH).

The reception desk leading to CRRH is almost empty. Only a few officials and mothers carrying newborns are waiting in a vacant hallway.

However, inside the laboratory where the Covid-19 tests are conducted, health officials are busy as some samples come in.

Laboratory in-charge, Meejur Palden, said that additional staff were deployed after the second positive case in Gelephu.

“They worked overtime, collected samples, and worked in the lab round the clock. This made RT-PCR lab to function smoothly,” she said. “They were given hands-on training and are working fulltime in the lab.”

Generating RT-PCR test result takes at least four hours.

“The team had to stay up all night with no proper meal or break,” Meejur Palden said. “It’s exhausting yet rewarding duty.”

In the beginning, only two lab personnel were trained for the RT-PCR by the Royal Centre for Disease Control for a period of 30 days. They were to train other staff later.

Medical Superintendent, Dr Dorji Tshering, said almost every health worker at CRRH was involved in treating Covid-19 patients after Gelephu reported second Covid-19 case on August 10.

The fourth batch of the health professional is in the isolation ward taking care of positive cases. So far, over 42 staff have been deployed to the isolation ward.

“Just to take care of one Covid-19 patient, we have to deploy 10 to 12 health officials. That is quite costly,” said Dr Dorji Tshering. “We have to keep staff in quarantine because we can’t afford to send the team back home.”

The laboratory team has five trained officials working in the lab today. “They were trained here since July.  There are a total of six health officials engaged in the lab,” said Dr Dorji Tshering.

The works started within an hour of the nationwide lockdown for the contact tracing and surveillance team in Gelephu. They started to test and quarantine the contacts of the index case.

When they were close to completing the contact tracing and surveillance of the second positive case, the team had to start tracing and testing people who had visited Phuentsholing on and after August 1.

The CRRH started to reduce the number of health staff working in the isolation ward starting from the third batch from 12 to nine. Today 18 health professionals are looking after the two positive patients in the ward following a 10-day shift system.

Including drivers, safety team, security officials, contact tracing and surveillance team, everyone at CRRH is involved in treating two positive cases in one way or other, according to Dr Dorji Tshering.

“Burden on ambulances has increased. Running six to seven shifts in a day is unusually high,” said the official.

The patients have to be dropped after treatment because they cannot hire vehicles because of the lockdown.

Covid-19 positive cases from the dzongkhag henceforth will be referred to Thimphu, according to Dr Dorji Tshering.

“This is mainly to utilise the resources wisely,” he said.