1. I recently underwent testing for coronavirus at the Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai and thankfully, I am not infected.

2. My sample was collected around 7 pm on March 12, and my result came out on 4 pm, March 13. During this time, I was placed in an isolation ward in the hospital. There were 13 other people in the ward with me and all of them tested negative for Covid-19.

3. The testing process involves an upfront manual screening to ensure only high risk patients are tested first, given that testing facilities are limited and time taken for testing is 20-24 hours.

a. Medical professionals decide on candidates for further testing based on their travel history and demonstrated symptoms.

b. This is necessary given the limited testing facilities, but is not ideal.

4. Candidates for further testing are sent to an isolation ward where a sample of their throat swab is collected and sent to Pune’s National Institute of Virology for a final analysis. The results take about 20-24 hours to come, and till then all those whose samples are collected are kept in quarantine in the isolation ward.

a. This highlights the need to ramp up testing and collection facilities.

5. The isolation ward is not a private room, but a general ward where the people are assigned different beds, each separated by at least l m, which is the necessary safe distance to prevent transmission of the virus.

a. Firstly, it is critical to inform candidates undergoing testing about this to prevent them from unnecessary panicking on seeing a common room.

b. Second, it implies we need a very high number of beds just to test people for the virus.

The isolation ward in Mumbai's Kasturba Hospital. Credit: Aakash Budhiraja

6. However, the facility in itself is not super clean and that can get scary. Government hospitals are in general not very clean and that is not ideal for our healthcare system, be it the time when corona is spreading or any other regular day.

a. While the ward and the washrooms were eventually cleaned, this should not be the situation in the first place itself. In fact, the frequency of cleaning should be ramped up to match the needs of the hour.

7. In my experience, the hospital staff was supportive, but they were constrained by the infrastructure of the hospital. This can potentially create a risk if the disease spreads rapidly since medical staff will have to waste their time in managing people and dealing with infrastructural woes.

8. However, please don’t panic and stay away from testing. If a doctor asks you to get tested, please do because you don’t want to become a super spreader. But continue to build pressure on the BMC [Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation] and government authorities to ensure the facilities are appropriate in quantity and quality.

The isolation ward in Mumbai's Kasturba Hospital. Credit: Aakash Budhiraja

You can read Aakash Budhiraja’s account of his experience on his Twitter page here.