05/26/2020, 14.31
INDIA
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Albina Poshapir, nurse who finds in faith the strength to fight the virus

by Nirmala Carvalho

“My faith in Jesus has strengthened me. COVID-19 is like a war. Patients are suffering, the elderly are suffering. As nurses, we are called to alleviate the sufferings of the sick, [and] serve them kindly.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Sister Albina Poshapir, a Catholic nurse, is the assistant matron (nursing officer) at the Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central, which was converted into a COVID-19 facility, the largest in the city with 362 beds.

AsiaNews spoke with her. Together with the Nair Hospital nursing superintendent, she is responsible for the facility’s patients and 617 nurses.

Sister Albina lives in Uttan, two hours from the hospital, but because of the pandemic she moved into the hospital hostel to be available at all times for patients and nurses.

“Due to the current situation I am unable go home every day,” she explained. “I only go back every 15-20 days. I work as an assistant matron in the administration. In Nair Hospital, we have 617 nurses on rotation and 91 Sisters-in-charge.”

After the outbreak, “Nair Hospital was designated a COVID-19 facility. We have to prepare everything for this. Previously we were a general ward. Now we need to convert our facilities into a COVID-19 ward.

"As part of my daily duties in this pandemic situation, I have to ensure that everyone strictly adheres to all protocols and procedures, keeps everything in mind, like the safety of nursing staff and patients. We have to assign nurses according to ward capacity.”

“In addition to patients, we also take care of our nurses. For the nursing staff, we provide personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, N95 masks and all the necessary precautions required,” Sister Albina noted.

“For our nursing staff staying in the hostel we ensure that they are given a nutritious diet and for those who travel to work, we take care of their travel, hotel stay, etc.

“All of this is included in our service as nurses, caring for patients and nurses, and must be meticulously planned, with care and attention. Since we are in lockdown 4, we see a daily increase in patients. Previously, when COVID-19 had just started, we used to get three to four patients. As soon as our hospital was declared a COVID-19 centre, we reached 618 patients and more.”

AsiaNews asked Sister Albina how her Catholic faith helps her care for patients and nurses during this pandemic despite the risks she and her family run when she goes home.

“Initially, when COVID-19 positive patients first began coming to Nair Hospital, all of us healthcare workers were very frightened. We had fear about how to manage, about social distancing, about the risks of contagion. However, with strong faith and prayers to Our Lady, I began encouraging our nursing staff, telling them to wear PPEs, keep their distance and use sanitisers.

“I also prayed for the safety of our nurses. Once patients started [arriving], and the wards began to fill, we realised that we needed to help positive COVID-19 patients and do our best to help them recover and serve them with professionalism and compassion.

“Patients with co-morbidity like diabetes, age, chest problems, hypertension, heart problems etc. have difficulties; the others recover. We explain to our nurses not to worry whatever happens. Most of our staff are non-Christians. I advise them not to worry; I encourage our nurses to stay positive.

“Our job is not like other jobs. We are at the service of humanity, of life; we need to help patients and at the same time keep our distance for our own safety.

“My faith in Jesus has strengthened me. COVID-19 is like a war. Patients are suffering, the elderly are suffering. As nurses, we are called to alleviate the sufferings of the sick, [and] serve them kindly. Elderly patients don't even know how to use a mobile phone. As they are positive, their family members are also in quarantine. There is no psychological support for them.”

As “No one comes to visit them, we console them and tell them not to worry. We take phone numbers from them and call distant relatives to help with food or money or anything they wish. We interact with the patients; we are the bridge between patients and relatives. We provide emotional and psychological support to patients.”

Asked by AsiaNews, she described her day. “Before coming on duty every morning around 6 am, I pray to Jesus and ask him to give us the courage and strength to fight this virus. If I am healthy, then I will be able to take care of my patients. So I ask for the blessing of taking care of my patients. When my duty ends, I go to bed in the evening, I pray again to God.

“Every day, after duty hours, I participate in online masses. I pray the Rosary daily, and Jesus and Mary have been my constant compassion in this battle against the coronavirus. Jesus and Mother Mary have helped me to be an agent of life for my patients and also for my nursing staff.”

"When Pope Francis described nurses as the saints-next-door, I felt so happy, I was filled with joy,” she told AsiaNews. “During this period, it is possible for the infection to spread through nurses. Because of this many people don't like being associated with nurses; they stigmatise them. They don't allow them in their residential colonies. Nurses are harassed.”

When this happens, “I feel very sad. This reminds me of how Jesus was rejected even though he had done good work. We nurses seem to be going through a similar experience. People hate us and yet we continue to take care of patients. However, when the Pope said we are the saints-next-door, I felt the Pope understood nurses’ heart.

“The Pope understands the challenges of the nursing profession and has great concern for us. I shared the great words of the Pope with many of my nurses. They were all smiles and very encouraged by the Pope's thoughtfulness and affection for nurses.”

Albina Poshapir is from the parish of Our Lady of the Sea in Uttan, and is actively involved in parish activities. She gives marriage preparation and pre-baptismal courses. She is secretary of the Catholic Nurses Guild of India and in November 2019 received the Pro-Life Award of the Archdiocesan Human Life Committee (AHLC).

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