Shopian’s sampling team carries methodical COVID work

The team takes around 150 to 200 samples daily.
Shopian’s sampling team carries methodical COVID work
Medical staff of district hospital Shopian in PPE suits. [GK photo]

They show up at 9:30 am at District Hospital Shopian and after marking their attendance scramble into PPE suits.

They make a dash for a sampling booth located near the facility.

A small wooden table, a few chairs, a register, and multiple swabs form the booth.

The team comprising two dental surgeons, four dental and lab technicians, and a nursing orderly start work at 10 am.

While the technicians collect the samples using swabs, the surgeons supervise the overall work. The job of the nursing orderly is to help the team.

People trickle into the booth throughout the day and give their sample for testing.

The team takes around 150 to 200 samples daily.

"We have been collecting the samples since the year 2020," says Rameez Maqsood, a dental technician.

Last year, as coronavirus started gripping the world, the team members were trained to collect the samples.

The team was first sent to Heerpoara, a village on the Mugual Road, to collect the samples as the village emerged as a new hot spot for COVID-19.

"The people were not inclined to give their samples. The officials both civil and Police used to prod them into testing," recalls Maqsood.

He said that even loudspeakers were used to appeal people to get themselves tested.

According to Maqsood, things have changed now and the people suspected of COVID-19 readily get themselves tested.

The team members remain tied up with the sampling process throughout the day and are hardly able to eat or drink.

"During the day, we can't even take a sip of water, let alone lunch," says Dr Arshad, a dental surgeons who supervises the team.

He says that the team members are unable to answer the phone calls of their families or friends.

"Once we are in a protective gear, it is not possible for us to use our cell phones," says Arshad, adding that they sweat inside the gear.

The team is even not able to see their families at home as they have to self isolate after finishing their duty.

"I don't remember when was the last time I had lunch with my parents," said Dr Shafqat, another dental surgeon.

Despite taking all precautions, the three members of the team contracted infection.

While Dr Arshad and Dr Shafqat tested positive last year, the test of Muhammad Jahangir Mir, a lab technician returned positive a few days ago.

"Last week, I developed some symptoms and later I tested positive for COVID-19," Mir said.

He said that it was an unusual situation and the team like thousands of other frontline health workers were putting in untiring efforts to stop the transmission of the virus.

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