CHENNAI: In the panic after she tested positive for Covid-19, Suganthi forgot that her period was due. The 19-year-old was at the isolation ward of government Chengalpattu hospital, when her monthly cycle started. Quarantined for 14 days, she didn’t know whom to turn to. “I asked the hospital staff, but they said no sanitary napkin was available. Then I had to ask my mother to come all the way from our home in Perumbakkam to hand me over a few. It took her an hour to reach here,” Suganthi said.
In the KP Park Covid care centre in Pulianthope, 17-year-old Sridevi (name changed) faced a similar situation. She was the only one who tested positive in her family, and hence she had no acquaintances at the centre. “I was so embarrassed. When I asked a female staff, she said napkins were not available. I was close to tears, so the staff arranged one napkin from her colleague for the time being,” she said. “I knew one napkin won’t be enough.
I paid Rs 100 to a staff to buy it for me from medical shop. Here, even to buy biscuit from outside, we pay staff Rs 100,” she added. When the talk about periods is still a taboo, being surrounded by men aggravates the difficulty. “I was more conscious about not staining my clothes because there were men in the next room,” Sridevi said. Ramki, a 30-year-old woman, who is boarded on the eighth floor of the care centre, rued that there is no separate wing for women although there are quite a few of them.
“There was an instance when a 17-year-old girl was boarded with a man in his late 60s, which they thought as acceptable, but it may be uncomfortable for the girl,” she said. Two weeks back, when Gayathri (name changed) was taken to the quarantine centre in Guru Nanak school, she had to ask her friend drive down to give her a packet of sanitary napkins, she said. “The centre didn’t have any in stock,” she said.
While Chengalpattu health officials were not available for comments, a senior official from the city corporation said that women have to bring sanitary napkins from home if they are transferred to quarantine centres or hospitals. “We won’t be able to make arrangements for everything they need. We will allow relatives to come and drop off essentials,” the official said.