In times of crisis, when people are burdened with the events that unfold every new day, there are few who go the extra mile in helping people and giving hope that good samaritans exist in every difficult situation. 

One of the few people whose contribution go unnoticed in such trying times are those who voluntarily give both physical and mental assistance swiftly and act as an emergency response team before many others think to do the same. Mechung Bhutia, a doctor but who prefers to be known as a social worker, with five other trained professionals will be sharing the burden of those who are already scanning passengers and travellers at Sikkim’s check posts and employees at private/govt. offices. 

On hearing the news of a shutdown in Sikkim, Bhutia was troubled – not for himself, but for others. He rushed to the border area check-posts, Rangpo and Melli to see what was happening in terms of screening for those who might be infected with the coronavirus. There was a shortage of manpower, scanning equipment, masks, gloves and sanitizers. Both health workers and travellers looked tired, the repercussions of such a dangerous infection being felt by each.

So, he took it upon himself to aid both parties in some way. He travelled down to Siliguri to purchase necessary equipment and utilities that were needed for screening people. The scarcity of these items was hitting hard on hospitals like STNM and Manipal, and the medical staff reached out to Bhutia for help in acquiring them. 

The other remarkable thing that Bhutia and his five-member team have done is having contacted the Sanjay Gandhi Medical College in Uttar Pradesh to learn how they treated the COVID-19 patients who are recovering now, and to understand how they managed the whole process and what protocols needed to be followed. 

“We cannot even refer these cases to other hospitals because now is the time where we have to do it ourselves,” says Bhutia. “There are almost 35000 employees in the pharmaceutical sector who work in a compromised environment. Group C/D people, whose immune systems are not good have a higher chance of infection. Yet, we can’t shut down the industries. So, instead, we will go to both private and government establishments for check-ups.”

When asked if the shutdown should have taken place before, he asserts that it should have. “We should have been quicker. Now, it’s a little delayed. According to WHO, 47% of the cases are asymptomatic. Who knows if such an individual is already within Sikkim?”

So the only solution is to get oneself scanned, visit the hospital or reach out to helpline centres in case you think you have contracted the virus or self-isolate for some time. 

“To the medical department, I would urge them to develop teleconference/ telemedicine communication with the doctors from Jaipur who have been successful in treating COVID-19 patients”, says Bhutia.

He adds, “The government should immediately provide the PPE (personal protective equipment’s) to the health care workers. We are acutely running short of the gloves, masks, sanitizers and thermal scanners. The government should procure 20 sets of ventilation machine since STNM and CRH has just 25-30 ventilation machine.

A few dos and donts that Dr Mechung Bhutia asks Sikkim’s people to keep in mind are:

  1. Do not touch the face, nose or eyes.
  2. Do not stockpile masks.
  3. Do not travel unless necessary.
  4. Do not go to crowded places.
  5. Do not believe everything on the Internet.
  6. Do not seek alternative treatment.
  7. Do not take antibiotics.
  8. Don’t wear a face mask if you are well.
  9. Wash your hand for at least 20 seconds.
  10. Cover your cough and sneeze with tissue paper or towel.
  11. Clean and disinfect touched objects frequently.
  12. Visit a doctor if you have fever and cough.

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