India’s second wave has hit with such ferocity that hospitals are running out without oxygen, beds and antiviral drugs. Many patients are turned away because there was no space for them. Ambulance sirens sounded throughout the day in the deserted streets, where a lockdown is in place to try and stem the transmission of the virus. Braj has not remained unaffected with the pandemic. Mass cremations have been taking place on the bank of Yamuna as the crematoriums have run out of space.
The service of the monks at the hospital of Rama Krishna Mission in Vrindavan is a hope among the residents and sadhus of Braj – Vrindavan. While on one hand people across India and around the globe are largely confined to their homes with business and educational institutions all are shut down in an attempt to contain the virus, and on the other hand the monks, doctors, health workers, volunteer and medical staff members of Rama Krishna Mission Sevashram are silently leading the battle against COVID -19 from the front.
Putting their own lives at risk with selfless determination for the sake of saving lives, the monks are following the instruction of Thakur Shri Rama Krishna Dev by serving ‘Shiva in Jiva’ in these challenging times. The Vrindavan branch of Rama Krishna Mission hasn’t deviated from its motto ‘For liberation of One’s own self and for the welfare of the world.’ It has only nurtured it by setting an example by serving the humanity during the pandemic.
Since the onset of the Covid – 19 pandemic, the hospitals have been bracing for the worst. Many of them recount disconcerting accounts, pointing at the humanitarian crisis that is unraveling as the reinvigorated pandemic rages across the country. But here, in Vrindavan, the humanity blooms through the selfless services of Rama Krishna Mission Sevashram. The Brajwasis and the sadhus find it’s services as most reliable in treating the Covid patients. The patients recovered in this hospital are full of appreciation for this hospital.
‘Vrindavan Today’ interviewed Swami Kalikrishnananda, the Assistant Secretary of Rama Krishna Mission Sevashrama of Vrindavan, who is popularly known as Rama Krishna Maharaj. While it has been very busy schedule for Swami ji to manage a Covid hospital, he took out sometime on our request for a telephonic interview:
VT: Swamiji, how are you coping the challenges to run a Covid hospital?
Swami ji: Rama Krishna Mission Sevashram has been providing uninterrupted medical care to the suffering humanity since 1907. In the 113 years journey of seva, ‘mission’ carried on selfless work facing several challenges. Each time a new challenge came on the way, we met it with proper strategy. We have been serving the needs of a large indigenous public and pilgrims as well as the people of neighboring districts, without any distinction of caste, creed or religion. The locals trust in the services of our hospital, so it is always a challenge to meet their expectations. We have to perform well to keep their hope alive. After our hospital was selected as a ‘Covid Care hospital’ by the district administration our responsibility towards the society has been enhanced. All our colleagues and medical staff are proactive limiting the spread of the virus and providing medical care to the patients.
VT: What are the facilities your hospital is having for ‘Covid management’?
Swami ji: We have a team of specialized doctors and nursing staff deployed to take care of the Covid patients round the clock. We provide all the necessary medicines and care to the patients. Our hospital is having all the medical equipments of ventilators, oxygen cylinders and CT scan. We also have the facilities of intensive care units, blood bank and laboratories. Ours is the only hospital in the district which is having the oxygen plants. They are altogether producing 1680 liters of oxygen.
VT: What is the capacity of the hospital? How many beds are allotted for Covid patients?
Swami ji: Our present capacity of bed is 300. We have allotted 160 beds for the Covid patients, whereas 140 beds are dedicated for the general patients. All the necessary tests for Covid are done in our hospital. Apart from the patients admitted in our hospital, the doctors are prescribing medicines in outpatient department too. The patients are being recovered by their treatment remaining in home isolation.
VT: What is the recovery rate comparing to the fatality? What is your personal involvement with the patients admitted in the hospital?
Swami ji: It is just one percent fatality, comparing to the 99 percent recovery. We ensure that the patients have best chance for recovery. I personally visit the isolation ward of Covid twice a day. It is a psychological battle too for the patients infected by Covid. The psychological support is very much required along with the medical care. I visit the Covid wards everyday and meet the patients personally. I encourage them not to worry. I tell them they will be alright soon and live a healthy life. I tell them, ‘we all are with you’. I listen to their grievance, if there is any. I give necessary direction to our medical team. Our personal attention on each patient motivates them to fight the battle with the infection.
VT: What is your schedule since you wake up till you go to the bed? How do you balance between your spiritual practices with humanitarian services?
Swami ji: I usually wake up between 5.00 – 5:30 am and meditate for one hour. I reach hospital at 7.30 after taking breakfast to oversee the operations. During the Covid time, I stay in the hospital till 10 pm. Then mediate for an hour again before going to bed. Serving the humanity is a meditation itself, which is clearly mentioned in our motto.
VT: What is your experience in dealing with Covid patients? How can the lives of Covid patients be safe?
Swamiji: Most of the people are dying for the delayed medical intervention. One should immediately get tested finding some Covid symptoms. The infected person must immediately see the doctor and begin the treatment with oral or inject able medicines. The affected people particularly the youngsters overlook the symptoms and don’t get tested. It becomes life risking for them. Once the lungs is affected completely then it gets very difficult for the patient to survive.
The psychological encouragement is vital for the patients in the fight with Covid. We mustn’t let the patients feel isolated. We should motivate them by saying we all are with you. You are a strong person. You will win the battle against Covid. We have to get involved with the patient psychologically. We must boost their confidence. Once the patient is confident, then the half the battle is won by him.
VT: What is your message to the world?
Swami ji: An unprecedented effort is needed from government, hospitals, providers, manufacturers and other stake holders to address the critical threat posed by Covid 19. The leaders need to determine the scale, pace and depth of action required addressing one of the most far reaching humanitarian crisis of our time. All the hospitals and medical professionals should be genuine in their approaches in serving the humanity, by charging reasonable prices from the patients.
The world is looking towards hospitals in this crisis. Some people are giving good services by risking their lives; some are giving moderate services to give some relief to the patient affected by the infection. The rising caseload has laid bare a hugely benevolent side of Indians as well as an utterly ugly face. At one end, there are conscientious individuals donating personal wealth, gathering resources or giving up a hospital bed in favor of a younger person, or philanthropists offering oxygen for free to bridge the gaps in the fight against Covid. At the other end, there is an ugly face of humanity with unscrupulous elements exploiting the vulnerable. Central to it all is a titanic struggle between demand and supply for critical medicines, oxygen, ambulance services and even for sweet lime and coconut water with crafty middlemen making the most of it. Prices of many of these products and services have seen a 10 fold rise.
It is very inhuman on the part of those looting and grabbing money from the people who are suffering. We all need fund to run the services, but exploiting people is unacceptable. Let us charge the amount required to meet the cost, not beyond that. No one should think of earning multifold profit from the people striving to save their lives.