COVID-19 in India: Four reports from the frontline in Mumbai

Premananda Hessenkamp

India’s healthcare system is still struggling against the surge in COVID-19 infections that has raged across the country. MSF teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and working to make medical care accessible to COVID-19 patients and other vulnerable communities, running water & sanitation and health promotion activities, and supporting the local frontline workers in Mumbai.

We share the experiences of our committed staff members working to tackle the virus in hospitals, clinics and communities. Through these testimonies, they are sharing their motivation, the challenges, and the highs and lows our teams experience every day.

Mabel Morales, medical coordinator for MSF India

“The situation in India and in Mumbai is very bad. It’s critical across the country. 

No one was ready for the second wave. It caught everybody by surprise. In a very short time, it’s turned into a major crisis. It’s so much worse this time and it was so sudden. There are many, many cases and the last week of April saw a real increase.

Healthcare workers are overwhelmed and exhausted. There is so much to do.”

Dilip Bhaskaran, project coordinator

“We are working with the local authorities to co-run Mumbai’s “Jumbo” COVID-19 care centre in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC). 

During this second wave, our role here is to improve the quality of care for patients with moderate illness at this 2,000-bed hospital.

Even though we are a small part of a big operation, our job is very important.”

Santosh Choure, health promotion manager

“More than 800,000 people live here in M-East Ward.

It’s a densely populated area of the city where 70 percent of people live in slums. 

People are scared and many of them prefer not to get tested even though they have symptoms. They’re afraid of being quarantined or hospitalised and separated from their family members.”

Aparna Iyer, medical team leader

“I work in MSF’s drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) and HIV project in the M-East Ward. The area has a high level of TB cases.

With around 3,000 COVID-19 cases every day, we’ve adapted to the lockdown restrictions… but it is important that services are not interrupted for our patients who have a complex condition. We’re still diagnosing a lot of new patients with TB who were unable to seek help due to the lockdown.”

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