COVID-19 has made us far more stronger : Dr Pavan Gorukanti, Director, Yashoda Hospitals
ETHealthworld interviewed Dr Pavan Gorukanti, Director, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad about his views on the COVID-19 situation and how he planned much ahead of times to deal with the pandemic.
How have you dealt with sudden onslaught of COVID-19 as a healthcare organization?
COVID 19 is an unprecedented worldwide pandemic affecting every country including India. Right from the early March 2019 when COVID 19 first appeared to affect our country, the top management at Yashoda Hospital Group immediately recognized the threat and had regular meetings with all the major stakeholders on best possible way forward. We took the threat very seriously and it quickly became obvious to us that it will not be business as usual in the hospital. Based on experience in other countries and news all over the place, we knew that it would take all our combined efforts to tackle the expected patient response.
As you are aware, Yashoda Hospital with three branches is the largest tertiary private healthcare provider in Hyderabad and the twin Telugu states. We, therefore, created a ‘COVID War Room’ and multiple whatsapp groups to designate responsibilities with empowered leadership. We involved top doctors of various specialties particularly crtitical care, pulmonary and infectious diseases; nursing and housekeeping management to re-priortize resources and hospital infrastructure. This was to cater to the expected flood of patients while cutting down elective and non essential work and focus just on epidemic.
How did you plan and prepare in such a short time, especially when the lockdown was announced without any advance warning?
Critical care areas such as respiratory and isolation ward manpower was planned weeks ahead with adequate ‘off duty rest days”. Multiple educational sessions to dispel any misinformation and ‘mock drills to handle suspected and proven cases were performed way ahead to be fully ready by the time real cases were expected.
Very early on we realized that adequate stock of equipment, medication, ventilators, advanced care services and most importantly adequate Personal protective equipment (PPEs) would make a potential difference between either taking care of patients or unable to cope. The purchase department was augmented with daily follow ups for the essentials procurement to maintain sufficient stock for foreseeable future. This planning ahead of the curve and rajor sharp focus on procurement, particularly PPEs helped a great deal to keep up the staff morale.
From the beginning itself, we were in constant touch with the Public health department for everything, from the guidelines on testing to isolation and quarantine techniques. We made it important to stay in close contact of relevant authorities.
Once the lockdown was announced, it was a bit more challenging to get everybody on the same page without big gatherings. However, thanks to advance planning, we could manage the transition smoothly. Our IT department helped in arranging regular video conferences to doctors, nurses and junior healthcare staff which greatly streamlined the process.
Every patient visiting the hospital was thermally screened, and his basic history including travel was taken to designate. Suspected respiratory cases were admitted to designated areas where the nursing, housekeeping and doctors were protected with PPEs and the sicker ones transferred to designated ICUs. COVID positive patients had a separate designated area in a block outside the main hospital to minimize any cross contamination. All the latest ventilator modes, and necessary medication was offered to them on case to case basis.
We recognized that even in the rest of the hospital areas cannot completely rule out asymptomatic patients a high index of suspicion was advocated and social distancing, barriers and other measures were maintained throughout the hospital and every healthcare worker was protected with appropriate PPEs in consultation with infectious disease experts and national and international guidelines. They were also continuously trained and monitored for compliance.
Due to the planning, continuous awareness drive and mock drills, intelligent rotation of manpower resources could give a significant ‘down time’ to staff, accommodation and transport for those requiring , free healthy nutritious diet, gym and other facilities and addressing psychosocial aspects, staff morale was really high with almost no absenteeism.
What has been experiences so far in terms of patient treatment regimens? How was the safety concerns for both patients and employees addressed by the hospital?
There could be many factors such as the strict implementation of lockdown, or may be weather which played a role in slowing down the pandemic. The hospitals did not see a surge of patients as expected and due to restriction on elective surgeries and OPDs, the occupancy rate dropped to less than half the usual numbers, consistent with numbers in other hospitals in the city and country.
During our brainstorming sessions, we decided to take extra-ordinary measures keeping the interests of patients and employees on the top. Despite the financial hit and additional expense of infrastructure modifications and PPE procurement, we decided against any increase in tariffs for the patients either in the isolation areas or general hospital. We ensured that there is no pay cut or any retrenchment for our loyal employees. Infact, additional incentives were paid to employees in COVID19 isolation areas to recognize their frontline work. We ensured the optimization of PPEs and recycling wherever possible besides curtailment of other monetary outflow like outdoor advertising and marketing activities as much as possible to conserve cash. We also arranged daily doctor shows, numerous webinars for patients besides referral doctors and telemedicine services for patient convenience.
How do you look at the future in terms of hospital operations, possible business implications and changes in post lockdown life?
The pandemic appears to have flattened with all the countrywide measures and we are hopefully behind the worst. While we stay positive over wining this battle with Coronavirus, we were and continue to be prepared for the worst in case of a rebound in cases.
The time in lockdown was used to prepare and rehearse for any eventuality. Gradually with easing of lockdown restrictions, outpatient and elective procedures will slowly get back to our usual routine. Yet at the same time, few things like social distancing, PPE use and infrastructure will be in place to prevent cross contamination of patients. We anticipate to continue the safety measures for the foreseeable future as it will also help to tackle other infectious diseases in addition to COVID-19.
We are prepared to sacrifice some revenue and profitability for these measures, but in the long run hope to be rewarded with increased patient loyalty. Just like in the past when we pioneered many new technologies for the first time in the country like 3T intraoperative MRI, Bronchial thermoplasty, Vapor ablation, motorized spiral enteroscopy and many more, we will continue to bank on innovative technologies. Besides that we will keep updating our services like Turnaround time (TAT) for all diagnostic and laboratory work, patient feedback measures and other things which we believe made us the leading private healthcare hospital in twin states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. We have been catering to people from all over the country and world with high satisfaction levels. More than 20,000 google reviews have proved the patient satisfaction levels and we are proud of that.
Like other private hospitals, these are testing times for us as well but we also consider this as an opportunity in disguise to emerge much stronger as an organization. Similarly, with unprecedented national level focus on bringing positive changes in hygiene and personal health habits of the people, we believe India too will emerge stronger as a nation.
Credits : ET Health World
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