- Dr Harmandeep Singh Boparai worked in New York during the first COVID wave
- Dr Boparai came to Amritsar in April this year to help India fight COVID
- Dr Boparai is presently working with Doctors Without Borders in Mumbai
New Delhi: After working as a frontline worker in New York during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Dr Harmandeep Singh Boparai returned to his hometown, Amritsar earlier this year, to help with the increasing number of COVID cases After seeing the country’s struggle with the massive caseload during the second wave of the pandemic, 34-year-old Dr Boparai, who is a specialist in anaesthesiology and critical care, decided to stay back and help his colleagues fight the invisible enemy. In an interview with NDTV, the COVID warrior recalled working in New York and spoke at length about working in India.
I was in New York during the first wave of the pandemic when it hit the United States after Italy and China. When I came back to India in April, my intention was to use the lessons that we had learnt abroad in order to start building capacity and helping out both the healthcare professionals here as well as the infrastructure. The cases started rising very rapidly so I decided to stay on and defer all my other commitments because we needed all hands on the deck, said Dr Boparai.
Following this, Dr Boparai went to Mumbai with an international humanitarian organisation called Doctors Without Borders and spent about three weeks with them at a 1000-bed COVID hospital. Talking about his work in Mumbai, Dr Boparai said,
We assisted in the wards with our team and also we were able to train nearly 300 or more doctors and nurses in some way to emergently see COVID patients.
Further talking about how COVID affected the US and India and how the two countries fought the pandemic, Dr Boparai said,
Though the healthcare infrastructure in the US is definitely much more advanced, still, the frontline workers were caught unaware to some extent during the first wave in New York. Our system was overwhelmed by the number of patients, but we still had enough doctors and nurses, we still had a manageable caseload.
“In India, what we have seen is that our existing infrastructure has been massively overwhelmed just because of the number of cases we have seen. With that, our supply chains, our oxygen supplies, everything has been stressed”, he added.
Dr Boparai also highlighted another difference that here, in India, everyone, healthcare workers and civilians went the extra mile to help others and sail through the crisis which according to him is encouraging. However, now that the COVID cases are lower in the country, Dr Boparai suggests taking the stock of the situation and continuing to build the capacity, train and rest wherever possible.
Sharing his learnings from the pandemic, Dr Boparai said,
Even with limited facilities and infrastructure, we can help a great number of people, if we can make sure that we have efficient use of that infrastructure, as well as enough support for the people who are working.
To tackle the future caseload, Dr Boparai recommends supporting healthcare professionals and other people who are on the frontlines by giving them mental health breaks and training wherever necessary.
One of my intentions in staying here is to continue to help fill any of these gaps that are necessary, said Dr Boparai as he signed off.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.