Evageline Booth Hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, is one of five large Salvation Army hospitals in India. The facility saw its first case of COVID-19 on 14 March 2020 and has adapted its procedures in order to meet the needs of more than 3,200 patients who have presented with coronavirus symptoms since then. A peak in admissions was reached in September 2020, with 163 individuals testing positive for COVID-19 admitted.
Arriving patients approach the hospital grounds through a sanitising spray tent, installed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation – part of India’s Ministry of Defence. Individuals are advised to sit in a reorganised admissions area outside the hospital, maintaining social distance from others while waiting to be seen by a medical professional. Police officers are supporting the staff with managing the flow of arrivals. The admissions team take each patient’s temperature, blood pressure and oxygen saturation along with other clinical details to evaluate the urgency of specialist intervention. Patients are admitted on the basis of medical need, or – where appropriate – transferred to nearby healthcare facilities, with the Evangeline Booth Hospital providing all necessary paperwork.
Many of the patients attending Evangeline Booth Hospital are already considered to be vulnerable individuals. In order to ensure biosecurity, patients are not able to receive food or other items from friends or family members. Therefore, The Salvation Army provides a welcome kit comprising mineral water, a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, sanitiser, a face mask and an energy drink. Hot tea and nutritious food – such as soup, boiled eggs and cookies – are provided to each in-patient three times a day. Every patient has access to purified water and an electric kettle.
Doctors make a clinical assessment of each patient according to World Health Organization guidelines, and any medicines necessary are prescribed. Where required, oxygen is provided at the patient’s bedside. As well as addressing patients’ physical conditions, efforts are made to care for mental health. Team members provide opportunities for conversation with every patient, to mitigate the emotional effects of isolation and social distancing. The team of medical professionals works closely with the hospital’s housekeeping and hygiene teams in order to coordinate most effectively and provide wrap-around care throughout the day and night.
Staff members are also being cared for, with vitamin supplements being provided free of charge in order to boost their immune systems. Twice a day, the whole premises are treated with disinfectant. Biological waste is safely removed from the site every day by local council workers. The biosecurity measures implemented mean that none of the Evangeline Booth Hospital staff team has contracted COVID-19.
As well as the relationship forged with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, good relationships have also been fostered with the municipal government, mayor, police, water and electricity authorities and roads service. Assistance has been provided in installing a new, more robust, underground electricity supply along with street lighting, security cameras and an improved road within the compound.
Crucially, capacity has been increased by renovating an old, closed, children’s ward. This has been brought back into service for treating patients recovering from COVID-19.
Although the Evangeline Booth Hospital was already highly regarded in the area, its response to the pandemic has been particularly praised by local people. In a community where many different faiths are practised, The Salvation Army’s team has been described as ‘angels of God’, with extensive coverage and testimony from recovering patients featuring in regional newspapers and TV news programmes. In addition to the high-quality care and excellent recovery rate (only one patient has died), Evangeline Booth Hospital has become a ‘platform of social connection’ – with many COVID-19 patients going on to fundraise for the clinic amongst their own business and community contacts. This in turn ensures that the provision of diligent service and care continues to be offered – free of charge – to all who need it, without discrimination.