Sharmistha Das, aged 25 years, comes from a remote village in the North 24 parganas district of West Bengal. She manages a team of 5 caregivers at BUURTZORG India, who attend to patients who are critically ill at HOME. She herself was attending to patients few months back and now trains new members in her team.
Kamalesh Sarkar, in his early twenties joined as an attendant at Buurtzorg India from North Bengal. He worked relentlessly with the team and learnt all the critical processes to manage serious patients. He didn’t take leaves for months and would always be available during crisis. Today he handles most critical patients independently.
On 24th March, when India announced the first phase of lockdown to fight the COVID-19 crisis, both of them had a huge challenge. How to take care of their patients, given that there won’t be any logistics or support system available. Also in absence of any caregiver these patients would simply die. Sharmistha and Kamalesh and some others in her team volunteered to stay at patient’s place, to provide round the clock care, staying away from home. It’s been over 50 days both of them are continuing without any complaints. They can take credits for saving at least one life during this huge pandemic. They are the new warriors outside the hospitals.
Many healthcare providers had to adapt to the outbreak of the virus and work under several constraints. The hospital system has almost collapsed. With most hospitals and outpatient department closed for patients, it’s a challenge managing health for people who are seriously ill. Buurtzorg, a Dutch modelled, home health care organization has been providing, post hospitalization care, palliative care, nursing care and geriatric care at home. Over 60% of the patients are cortically ill and need round the clock monitoring. It operates with about 100 caregivers in West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. Many of these caregivers migrate from smaller towns to provide this care and stay at hostels provided by the organization.
Providing care was a huge challenge during the time of lockdown. Carers who were required to travel for their job were not able to. ‘Fear’ and ‘Anxiety’ were two crucial factors in every care givers mind. But, during this unprecedented time BUURTZORG had to respond as they have a duty to their patients.
“We would like to make a mark in the history, as true warriors. These are rare times where you get an opportunity to create your own stories worth re-living” - Devjit Sarkar: CEO
Communication was initiated and everyone was encouraged to acknowledge the crisis and be there for patients during these times. Caregivers responded by volunteering to help and communication was maintained through the use of video chat. Those who returned home were not penalised for their decision and were ensured financial security. Patients were categorized based on need and noncritical patients were looked after by family who were trained to provide care. The remaining patients were looked after by a pair of carers who were adopted by host families so that they could look after patients without traveling. Their accommodation and food arrangements were made by the patients’ families.
In the face of adversity, Buurtzorg India has been able to adapt and continue to provide services amidst this crisis. Their ability to continue providing health care stems from the selflessness of their staff to provide care and volunteer through everything that is going on.
Buurtzorg nursing is a Dutch model of community nursing that brings the highest quality of care to home. It takes a holistic approach, providing both personal and skilled nursing care, eliminating many coordination problems. Buurtzorg guides in recovery or during a disease process, help with monitoring and giving medication, and implement orders from the doctor and help treat wound care, injections, pain control, and rehabilitation.
Buurtzorg in India operates thru its JV with Edugreen and currently available in the cities of Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Varanasi and Lucknow. Very soon it is expanding to Pune and Noida.