Fully under the grip of the global pandemic, India is reporting cases of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, on the frontline of the battle, being shunned by others for fear of being infected
By: HBI Desk
The new COVID-19 coronavirus has spread far and wide across the globe – bringing social disruption, economic damage, sickness, and death. In countries that have been severely affected by COVID-19, such as Italy, Spain and the United States, strained healthcare systems have reached their breaking points.
A scarcity of medical workers has also plagued countries that are struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The government of the United Kingdom asked 65,000 retired nurses and doctors to return to work, along with final-year medical students. Amidst all this, doctors, nurses and frontline health workers in our country have been under a spate of attack and abuse ever since the government imposed the lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
Many doctors have been asked to vacate their rented homes by their landlords as they believe that doctors staying at their houses may make them more susceptible to COVID-19. Across the country, medical professionals have reported ostracisation by the public, who fear that they could serve as vectors for the novel coronavirus. Some doctors have faced threats and harassment as they attempted to travel to work under the nationwide lockdown.
While they serve on the frontlines to contain COVID-19, healthcare workers are realising they have to pay a heavy price for doing their job. Apart from heightened risk of infection, anxiety and being separated from their families, they are also increasingly dealing with social ostracism, harassment and even assault.
Healthcare force facing social stigma
Healthcare workers are at an increased risk of catching any communicable disease, including COVID-19 as they spend a lot of time up close with the patient doing high risk activities. During the SARS outbreak in 2002, one-fifth of all cases were in healthcare workers. In addition, the overworked Indian medical professionals are now increasingly fighting on a whole new front in the COVID-19 battle: Social stigma.
Fully under the grip of the global pandemic, India is reporting cases of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, on the frontline of the battle, being shunned by others for fear of being infected.
It is an encouraging sign that the importance of medical professionals and other frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19 does not seem lost on the government. The officials have been swift in making arrangements of protection and facilitation, either by way of making harsh policies or by way of punishable laws. The battle against COVID-19 is leading to a whole new level of stress as these professionals undergo, and not just physical but emotional as well.
While not everyone needs psychological intervention, just someone who can listen can be enough. To ensure this, hospitals such as Cloud Nine have installed internal helplines for the staff, to enable calls with experts and seniors. There are also regular meetings on Zoom to keep the conversation going.
The public at large needs to think rationally as there are chances that these warriors can develop suicidal tendencies. And in case they continue to work in these professions, they won’t deliver services with empathy but with a vengeance, say experts in the industry.
Now, the longstanding failures of India’s under-supported healthcare system have been thrust into the spotlight with healthcare workers staring down a rapidly approaching crisis. Without a surge of government funding and attention, medical professionals have little reason to believe that they will be protected or supported as they serve on the frontlines of India’s response to the pandemic. The already-strained workforce is at risk of collapsing under pressure and the consequences of this would be disastrous.
Handy tips for healers
- Take a break from the news
- Create a constructive routine for personal self-care activities such as exercising at home, spending time with friends, family and children—online or over the phone
- Speak to other doctors/healthcare workers about how they are coping
- Understand that this phase will end
- Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that this is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak
- Monitor yourself for symptoms such as difficulty in sleeping and concentrating or a sense of fatalism