Mumbai

At isolation centre, TMH cancer patients find familiar faces

Staying safe: TMH cancer patients isolated at the COVID-19 care centre at the NSCI Dome.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A 26-year-old medical social worker from Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) has set an example by continuing to care for cancer patients with COVID-19 even after testing positive herself. Instead of being in home isolation, Asmita Salunkhe opted to get admitted to the oncology section in the COVID-19 care facility at Worli’s NSCI Dome so that she could assist the cancer patients admitted there.

Severely immunocompromised, cancer patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 face the additional risk of progressing disease. But the staff from TMH has continued to take the responsibility of their patients at NSCI.

“It is different when a nurse wearing PPE interacts with them. Since I am a patient myself, I am wearing only a mask,” said Ms. Salunkhe, a resident of Bhandup who tested positive of May 21 and was admitted to the centre at the giant indoor stadium the next day. On Thursday, her repeat test returned positive and isolation period had to be extended.

“I respond to patient queries, ensure they get medicines and watch out if anyone develops severe symptoms. Thanks to the work, I can keep busy and don’t feel like a patient,” said Ms. Salunkhe, who is asymptomatic.

So far, 110 cancer patients from TMH have tested positive. Those who need treatment were admitted to the hospital, while asymptomatic patients were shifted to NSCI. Cancer patients are at high risk of contracting the virus. Globally, the mortality rate among them due to the infection is said to be high.

“We evaluated the threat to life with COVID-19 and with stopping cancer treatment, and took a conscious decision to continue the cancer treatment,” said Dr. Rajendra Badwe, director of the Tata Memorial Centre. In April, for example, the hospital carried out 520 cancer surgeries, some of them on COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Badwe said triage has been crucial for them to continue with regular functioning. “It is in the triage that our health workers screen thoroughly and decide if the patient should go to the fever clinic or to the hospital for routine procedures,” he said. Patients who test positive continue to be their responsibility, even if they are sent to another centre, he said.

The NSCI centre was set up by bariatric surgeon Dr. Muffazal Lakdwala. It has a capacity of nearly 500 beds and currently has 60-odd cancer patients.

TMH surgeon Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, who is overseeing the NSCI’s oncology section, said a dedicated staff nurse and coordinator are stationed there.

“The nurse has been given a smartphone on which the TMH doctors are carrying out teleconsultations for patients,” said Dr Chaturvedi, who goes for daily rounds at the facility.

“They are already frightened with the cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, when COVID-19 strikes, it causes them additional trauma due to isolation. But when they see TMH staff, they feel at ease,” said Dr. Chaturvedi.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 9:01:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/at-isolation-centre-tmh-cancer-patients-find-familiar-faces/article31706208.ece

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