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Army on the frontlines of COVID battle in India

Army on the frontlines of COVID battle in India

Army on the frontlines of COVID battle in India

28 April 2021

Patients queuing at The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Hospital in Ahmednagar in India’s west as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens on the subcontinent. The hospital is one of few non-government-run facilities caring for coronavirus patients.

The Salvation Army in India is battling to test and treat a growing number of patients that arrive at its hospitals and clinics across the subcontinent as the latest wave of the COVID-19 virus stretches the country’s health system beyond capacity.

While Indian government policy has, in the main, been to deliver COVID-19 treatment through its own healthcare facilities, the Army's hospitals in several areas are admitting large numbers of patients with COVID symptoms.

The international leader of The Salvation Army, General Brian Peddle, has written to Salvationists in India to support and encourage them in their work there and as they face the pandemic personally.

“Your country and its people have captured the attention of the world due to the present surge of COVID and its impact upon families, neighbours and communities,” the General wrote.

“I am proud of the work being done at our hospitals and am hearing stories from your leaders of courage and great faith. Our hearts are moved and I write ... assuring you of our prayers and practical support.”

Staff vaccinate a patient at Evangeline Booth Hospital.

Strengthening response

The World Health Organisation reports that there have been more than 17.6 million COVID-19 cases in the country to date with the daily numbers continuing to increase. It said the number of cases reported on 26 April was 352,911, an increase of about two per cent on the previous day. The number of daily reported fatalities due to the virus was the highest it has been.

A meeting of The Salvation Army’s International Headquarters COVID-19 taskforce this week considered what further steps could be taken to strengthen the response in India.

In Maharashtra state, in India’s west, The Army’s Evangeline Booth Hospital in Ahmednagar is one of the relatively few non-government-run facilities that has been caring for coronavirus patients since March last year. As of Friday 23 April, 160 beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients, with 50 requiring oxygen. While most had been successfully discharged, another 27 patients with COVID symptoms were admitted on Monday 26 April.

Hospital administrator Major Devdan Kalkumbe said the hospital was giving free treatment to COVID-19 patients. “Our concern is that the second wave is more serious and deadly [than the first] but the risk is that we don’t have enough oxygen for the higher demands,” Devdan said.

The government has supported the hospital with the provision of some extra oxygen, with International Headquarters providing an additional ventilator and essential personal protective equipment. Night curfews had also interrupted staff travelling to work.

The Army also operates Emery Hospital in Gujarat state, which was not used for COVID patients earlier in the pandemic. It now has 50 patients.

Catherine Booth Hospital in Nagercoil, at the southernmost tip of India, has been asked by the Indian government to accept up to 40 COVID patients. Earlier this week, 23 beds were occupied with more patients expected as the situation worsened.

With patients unable to receive visitors, Army workers are endeavouring to provide meals, therapeutic care and other essential support.

Although primarily an ophthalmic specialist facility, MacRobert Hospital in Dhariwal, Punjab, in India’s north, has prepared a 150-plus bed capacity facility for COVID patients that would reduce pressure on nearby government facilities. Groups of 10 students from its nurse training program have also been going into the rural community around the hospital to do PCR testing and other health checks.

Army clinicians have also supported the government in its roll-out of the local COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

While The Salvation Army’s Evangeline Booth Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, in central India, awaits official permission to open, a new ambulance service began on Monday 26 April, serving the Nidubrolu community. Specially-trained staff in full protective gear are supporting civic government public health initiatives.

From a national perspective, Colonel Lalhmingliana Hmar, India National Executive Officer, said the Army was trying to make hope a reality to people who were losing hope.

In his letter, General Peddle quoted Joshua 1 encouraging the people of India to “be strong and very courageous” and reiterated the importance of cooperating with government public health instruction and following sound hygiene practices.

“I have had my vaccination. I encourage you to receive yours,” he said.

People wanting to donate to The Salvation Army’s South Asia Disaster Fund can go: HERE

Edited from a report from IHQ Communications, International Headquarters


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