Ever Since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, doctors and healthcare workers have been saving our lives and lost their own in the battle. These selfless warriors have been cutting themselves off from their own family putting their duty as the priority. The sacrifice they have made for the welfare of society is priceless and they deserve utmost respect and honour. July 1st is celebrated as National Doctors Day in India and to honour and show gratitude to them, here’s a sum up from various sources to understand why they are the bravehearts of the pandemic.
What cost the Doctors in the fight?
The pandemic has cost doctors a lot in different directions, from putting their duty before their families to bear the harshness of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for long hours and from facing the emotional toll to losing their own lives. Here are some anecdotes from the doctors and their sacrifices.
Dr Siddharth Sisodia, a Senior Resident Doctor from LNJP Hospital shared how he prepared himself to deal with the pandemic. He said that when coronavirus hit India (2020), his wife was 5-months pregnant and her due date was in the first week of August. He had to prepare himself physically and mentally to fight the coronavirus crisis. Initially, as everyone knew it is one of the scariest viruses the world has ever seen, he too was scared like every other person. But being a doctor, he had to stay back being his duty. It was a challenging time for him, he didn’t meet his wife in March however they spoke every day. He had to console not just himself but his partner as well. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting for him as he had to leave his family behind and fight an unknown war. But he ensures that all the health workers are working together with one motive to make India free from coronavirus which is everyone’s ultimate goal.
Dr Amandeep Singh, a second-year PG student said that he works straight for 2-weeks and have to get the COVID-19 test, if he is negative, that’s when he meets his family for a day and return to work. For COVID-19 duty, he has to first get ready with all the gears on, if he is inside the COVID ward then he has to wear Personal Protective Equipment for six hours straight. During that time, he cannot drink water, eat anything or take any washroom breaks. And when the ward is overwhelmed with patients, he has to extend his duty as well. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get out of the gear completely and get sanitised. For him, 24 hours in a day also feel very less in this pandemic, he has to focus on his studies, be around for COVID duties, whenever required. He says, “ As doctors, I think, we are capable of fighting the pandemic, but coronavirus has a lot of other pressures – physically and mentally.”
COVID-19 pandemic sure did give an emotional roller coaster to many doctors. In the second wave, due to the shortage of oxygen, many doctors broke down on various interviews as they couldn’t save lives.
In the war against COVID-19, doctors and other healthcare workers were the most vulnerable to the virus as they had to attend to different patients with different scales of infections. They risk their lives trying to save many patients and there has been news of many doctors succumbed to COVID-19 across the country.
Number of doctors who succumbed to Covid19 in India.
In the first wave of COVID-19, around 748 doctors are registered to have died due to the disease in the IMA (Indian Medical Association) COVID-19 registry. These include doctors working in government facilities, private hospitals and medical colleges across the country.
IMA also stated that more than 400 doctors have died in the second wave out of which 100 casualties are reported from Delhi. It is also stated that at least 96 doctors have died in Bihar, 41 in Uttar Pradesh, 15 in Maharashtra, 31 in Gujarat, 20 in Telangana and 16 in West Bengal and Odisha.
Stigma and discrimination faced by Doctors
Violence against doctors and other healthcare workers has increased over the years with up to 75% of doctors facing this during their practice in India. And 68.33% of the violence is committed by the patient’s relatives or attendees. And after the coming of the pandemic, there’s a surge in the violence mainly due to ignorance, fear, panic, frustration and misinformation. The types of attacks have ranged from verbal abuse, verbal threats or aggressive gestures, physical assaults, etc. in most cases.
There have been cases of doctors and healthcare workers being attacked by mobs, they are ostracised by the neighbours and society mainly for the fear of catching COVID-19 from them or being stigmatised for having contracted it themselves. There has been a report of Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) of ALL India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) reaching out to the Home Minister of India complaining about their forceful eviction by their landlords over the covid-19 pandemic. The landlords fear that the health workers can be carriers and would infect them.
On19 April 2020, the burial of a neurosurgeon who had died after contracting COVID-19 in Chennai was disrupted by a mob who attacked the undertakers. The citizens’ opposition was due to a misconception that the contagion may spread in the neighbourhood if the surgeon was buried there. There have also been reports of doctors being spat on, hurled abuses at, beaten and driven away.
On 27,April 2021, family members of a Covid-19 patient attacked doctors, nurses and other staff at the Apollo hospital in Delhi's Sarita Vihar. The family members were enraged after the patient died of Covid-19 without getting an ICU bed. The patient's family members resorted to vandalism, destruction of hospital property and assault on the doctors and staff members.
This kind of violence affects doctors and as a result faces insomnia, depression, anxiety, and fear of violence while treating their patients.
How to combat the violence
We need to understand that they are our saviours and such horrendous actions should be highly condemned. Certain things can be done and improved to avoid such violence:
- One of them being better and timely communication with the aggrieved patients and their family members.
- Social media platforms can play a positive role in the current pandemic collaborating with Government agencies to provide an effective information campaign to educate the public about the diagnosis, spread, containment and prevention strategies against COVID-19 transmission.
- The government should provide protection against such violence. For a sustainable protection of the healthcare workers, the current Ordinance needs to be further extended and incorporated into existing laws in the form of strict, permanent legislation that is strictly enforced.
- The use of telehealth will reduce the face-to-face contact of patients and thus may reduce the physical assault on the doctors to some extent.
- The most important is the education of the masses and better access to primary health care services.
If the above criteria are met, there will be a drop in the violence against doctors and health care workers. Despite the violence and sacrifice, they have made, they continue to carry on with their duties relentlessly. They are our heroes, our saviours. Let’s be grateful to them and give them the respect and honour they deserve.
Courtesy: Live Mint, BMJ, swachhindia.ndtv.com,TOI