It is nearly two years since a pandemic has upended our lives and changed the world as a whole. Even now, many countries are reeling under the waves of rising Covid-19 cases.
Witnessing popular sports events from packed stands is one of the greatest missings of the period. In the pandemic world, sporting events are held without viewers or in a limited capacity. The Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the most celebrated cricketing extravaganza, had met with the same fate.
Conducting a sports event amidst a raging pandemic and ensuring the safety of the players from a deadly virus is not an easy task. But a UAE-based healthcare group, VPS Healthcare, accomplished it in 2020 by conducting IPL successfully. One of the largest healthcare groups in the UAE, VPS Healthcare, led by Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, is on the run to rewrite the success story for the second time this year as well. It has been reappointed by the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) as the healthcare provider for the rescheduled leg of IPL in the UAE. Here is the untold tale of how the medical group has achieved the result.
Role of VPS Healthcare
Experienced in offering 360-degree healthcare services for sporting events, BCCI entrusted VPS Healthcare with the responsibility to provide comprehensive medical solutions requisite for the conduct of the IPL. It included setting up, implementing, and monitoring Covid-19 RT-PCR testing for everyone associated with the event and providing medical services to players and BCCI stakeholders in case of need.
To ensure a safe IPL experience, VPS Healthcare has made elaborate arrangements in all its hospitals across the emirates. As the official healthcare provider, the group was to provide a broad range of services. It includes emergency medical services, sports medicine support, musculoskeletal imaging, specialist teleconsultation, doctor-on-call, ambulance/air ambulance support, and above all to keep the bio-bubble intact by ensuring strict Covid-19 protocol.
To cater to these needs, the group had set up a 100-member multidisciplinary team for sports medicine and Covid-19 management. Two medical teams comprising doctors, nurses, paramedics, and lab technicians were assigned to each stadium for every match.
Strict testing protocol
VPS Healthcare had adhered to stringent measures. It has been the central pillar in keeping the bio-bubble intact. All players, BCCI staff, officials of the franchisees, and all who were part of the bio-bubble were regularly tested.
All external members of the bio-bubble had undergone testing ahead of the arrival of the players. Over 750 hotel staff across 14 hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi underwent testing.
The players who arrived in the emirates undergo the same procedure. They are tested at the airport at arrival, repeated on the fifth day, and subsequently every third day.
Following the pattern, VPS Healthcare had conducted around 45,000 tests during the IPL season of 2020. Even the matches are fewer this time, it expects to see over 30,000 tests due to the updated testing protocol. The medical group, presently, can conduct 2,000 PCR tests for the IPL in a day, with a turnaround time of six to eight hours for the results.
Moreover, to ensure secure bio bubbles, nurses and other medical staff are accommodated in the same 14 hotels as the players till the end of the tournament.
Dr Shajir Gaffar, CEO of VPS Healthcare (Dubai and the Northern Emirates), said: “Being the healthcare provider of a sports event of such as massive scale like the IPL is challenging. But we knew our strengths and were confident when we took it up. Our team has shown extraordinary resilience during the period of the conduct of the tournament. They worked hard day and night. We are thankful to the UAE government, Ministry of Health, Dubai Health Authority and Department of Health for their support and the BCCI authorities for keeping their faith in us and entrusting us with this exciting opportunity.
"This time, it is going to be more stringent. We had learned lessons from our previous experiences. Complete water-tight measures will be put in place. We are very much aware of the onus of the responsibility on us and will deliver to the fullest of our abilities. Another significance is UAE’s exceptional strike rate in seamlessly conducting high-profile sports events during the pandemic. With the second leg of the IPL and ICC T20 World Cup happening back-to-back, it will help UAE in solidifying its pioneering position as a safe global sporting destination. "
With its unparalleled expertise in sporting events, VPS Healthcare seamlessly handled 80 hospital visits and facilitated the treatment of 156 injuries across its hospitals during the 2020 IPL season. After providing comprehensive healthcare solutions for the IPL last year, the group offered Covid-related services for other international sporting events like the UAE Cycling Tour, AFC Champions League group stage matches, T10, UFK, and UAE Warriors.
The group endeavours to extend the best possible medical services to players this year. Response Plus Medical, the group’s on-site medical team, will provide ambulance/air ambulance support during the matches. Injured players will be provided care at VPS hospitals in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, while the players requiring the air ambulance facility will be taken to Burjeel Medical City.