Dr. Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, MD & CEO, Fortis Healthcare Ltd.
Speaks about his organization’s benefits for front line workers, shares inspiring stories of frontliners & focuses on rapid infrastructure development
The video is a detailed account of a conversation with him. Below is an excerpt…
How were your Leadership and HR teams involved in ensuring support towards healthcare warriors over the last many months?
In the early lockdowns before the first wave, we took several supportive measures as an organization. The first one was to ensure that all workers are covered by insurance. In circumstances where they required hospitalization, insurance would ensure access to quality care.
The first phase was marked by a complete lack of immunization, so protecting the families of healthcare workers was a priority. Pick-up services, transportation, hotel accommodations were additional measures that we implemented. Most importantly, the Leadership Team ensured that all these benefits were communicated regularly, to make everyone feel protected. Protocols on self-protective measures for COVID were also prepared and information dissemination was carried out with efficiency.
Could you illustrate some positive experiences from the frontline and the lessons that emerged from them?
Instances to take inspiration emerged from every cadre involved on the frontlines. Many workers showed proactive spirit in sharing the training given to them with their co-workers and other colleagues. Skills like ‘how to take temperatures accurately’, ‘how to distinguish potential COVID patients and isolate them rapidly’ were developed by frontline warriors due to their own vigorous initiative after being given cursory training.
One of the key positive occurrences in this overall unfortunate situation was the emergence of leaders across all levels of the healthcare industry. If this had not happened at stations across the nation, managing this crisis would not have been possible. With the initial breakdown of transportation channels and supply chains, exceptional improvisation and quick thinking is also something we credit frontline workers with. We need to acknowledge the contribution of stakeholders and partners in the health industry that go unnoticed, like suppliers, vendors, administrators and support staff.
Did you observe your frontline workers in some Indian regions being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis?
I believe there are no significant regional differences in the manner that people were impacted. The timing of peaking of the viral pandemic and intensity of the wave were factors that differed across the country. Logistical issues were variable; in cities like Mumbai local transportation was a bigger issue as compared to many other Indian cities. Another key example of a unique logistical issue was one pertaining to Delhi. Workers who travelled across the National Capital Region had to occasionally comply with restrictions of different states and the NCT. In New Delhi, the second wave was very concentrated and the virus’s peak was achieved in a short period of time. This caused an immense burden on authorities and hospitals in the city, for which they were not fully equipped. A hypothesis is that factors like lower population density in other cities and towns allowed impact to be mitigated to some degree.
Will an accumulating backlog of non-COVID disease patients overwhelm the healthcare system in the future? If so, what can be done?
A major worry is that some chronic conditions and diseases can be treated with early intervention, but become inoperable if timely treatment is not taken. Therefore, we may see patients having higher morbidities and poorer recovery rates, and not just a numerical increase in NCD patients. Policy makers need to highlight this issue, as it has been overlooked over the last few months.
A silver lining is that the major proportion of physicians and frontline staff are immunized. Healthcare agents are feeling more confident about their ability to handle the virus. The reduced rate of mortality and severity of illness after immunization also allows waves to subside faster. This will ensure that any non-COVID work that is paused temporarily can resume with speed and efficiency, even if more waves follow.
What are some ways to build healthcare capacity with speed and efficiency?
Short term solutions can only enable better physical infrastructure, but the actual care of patients is an endeavor that is taken up by healthcare workers and professionals. Human resource shortage is hard to fulfil in a rush.
Firstly, students who are training to be specialists and general practitioners need to start getting exposed to patients earlier on and get practical training.
Secondly, there is a need to review the current system, where medical students have to overwhelmingly concentrate on academic training like post-graduate program entry exams. Tackling the quantitative shortage of specialists needs to become a priority.
Thirdly, the public healthcare system has to improve. In India, the private healthcare system cannot cater to the needs of the entire population. Low financial ability of a large proportion of our population makes private care inaccessible.
There is a lot of misinformation regarding COVID-19. What are some recommendations to better manage the circulation of information pertaining to healthcare?
With the availability of open-source information, it is easy to produce and circulate misinformed content. Regulating information is a highly challenging issue for any government or agency to tackle. Renowned medical institutions and other credible agencies need to produce and disseminate factual and verified data to counter the presence of misinformation. This does not diminish the need for us to observe vigilance as individuals. We need to learn to discern credible information from the volume of content easily available.