A team at Bel Air Hospital, an institution of the Indian Red Cross Society in Panchgani, Maharashtra, has been silently making a difference during COVID-19. As we experience one of the most complex health and humanitarian crisis situations the world has seen, health professionals at the Hospital continue to show exemplary commitment to their call of duty. Despite dealing with challenges at multiple levels – personal, professional, social, physical and mental – they step out of their homes every day to provide crucial life-saving support. On World Humanitarian Day 2020, we pay tribute to all frontline responders in India and beyond. In this short and reflective piece, Sister Amala Xavier, Nursing-in-Charge at Bel Air Hospital, shares a glimpse of her team’s COVID-19 experience.

I am a staff nurse designated to look after the COVID-19 positive patients at the Indian Red Cross Society’s Bel-Air Hospital in Panchgani, Maharashtra. My team has a very positive outlook towards this mission and we have never let the fear of the coronavirus disease overpower us or impact our actions. It has been a very difficult time for healthcare workers on the frontline, but we have continued to look after patients at this Corona Care Centre with all our hearts.

During the initial period, when the pandemic started spreading, we underwent a week-long training on the importance of using personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand hygiene from the college of nursing faculty at the Bel-Air Institute. It was timely and holds us in good stead even today.

One of the main challenges of this mission – which not many people would be familiar with – is wearing the PPE while at work. We are in coveralls throughout the duty period and it is often very difficult to communicate with our own team members. It gets frustrating at times, however, the team members have relentlessly continued working for the best interests and timely recovery of our patients. We are also amply aware of the risks of not wearing PPEs.

Then there are other medical challenges – of managing the elderly patients who have comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and other age-related issues.  Providing psychosocial support to them has been extremely important and effective to ease their worries and anxiety.

The team stays mentally strong by reading books, watching the news and by keeping abreast of how the pandemic is unfolding around the world. It motivates us to stay committed to our work. Our seniors and mentors, including our director Fr. Tomy K. MCBS, have been a pillar of support and help us tide over difficult situations. 

While we stay away from home, the good wishes and prayers we receive from our family members keep us going. Their contribution to this battle against the pandemic has not gone unnoticed. The disease is still actively spreading and my message to everyone is what they already know — follow the precautions of hand hygiene, safe distancing and respiratory etiquette. That is the only way we will be able to keep ourselves and our families protected.


Read more about the work of the Red Cross during COVID-19:

“As doctors, we serve as gatekeepers – first in, last out”

Supporting Communities Affected by Floods in Assam