The breakout of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 changed the lives of doctors around the world forever. Irrespective of the grim situation, doctors have been at the forefront to serve their country. Despite the obvious risks that are attached to the deadly infection, the coronavirus warriors haven’t left the battlefield. The exhausting journey and the two waves have, unfortunately, swept away the precious lives of healthcare workers and medical staff in India.
There have been countless Covid-19 warrior stories on the Internet about medics wearing PPE kits and working excruciating hours, many of whom weren’t able to meet their partners and kids for days, some were kicked out by their landlords just because they were dealing with Covid-19-infected patients. But there is another aspect to the hardships of medical workers that nobody is talking about: the lack of patients.
Apart from critical care units and Covid-19 duties, there are doctors who have struggled to get even a patient on a regular basis. Fear of stepping out, lack of public transportation due to lockdown and the paranoia of bringing the virus back home with them is very much real among the general public. This has directly affected the medics, as they struggle to keep up with their clinics and pay their bills.
Dr Piyush Singh, a former RDA President, shared his experience with News18.com. “During my tenure in a Delhi Hospital where I was last employed, I was asked to quarantine for 14 days since I showed some minor symptoms of Covid-19. At the end of the month, half of my salary was deducted stating that I got exposed to virus not in hospital on my duties but from somewhere else. This deduction was done prior to any information.”
A chat with doctors from non-Covid-19 teams painted a similar story.
In conversation with News18.com, Dr. Rachna Sharma, Sr. Consultants &In-charge Pediatric ICU at BLK Super Specialty hospital, Delhi said, “There are definitely lot of personal loss in terms of interaction with our Colleagues and patients. The other important aspect is psychological health of the children, which has been worst affected. And now walking back to hospital after lockdown and seeing our children with all gadgets and paraphernalia makes the visits less memorable for kids.”
Further she expresses that, “I believe tele-consultations have its own pitfalls, so I hope it does not become a new normal”
Dr Manu Gautam, Orthopedic Surgeon, Chairman URDA-India said: “Because of Covid-19, less people show up to hospital reason be it fear, lockdown or others. Due to which remunerations of the doctors like Ophthalmologist, Orthopedic, Psychiatrist, Dermatologist were cut in half or were cut down to a specific percentage.”
He further said, “Practices of doctors not associated with Covid-19 duties were hampered even the lives of the people who could be easily saved were then at risk since beds and other basic medical facilities weren’t available due to high demand. The non-availability of non-Covid-19 hospitals made things difficult for patients and doctors in managing other ailments.”
Dr Abhinav Monga, MD, Consultant Psychiatrist spoke about the mental health of the medics.
“Doctors who were not involved in critical care of patients with COVID-19 not only suffered from financial burden but also experienced a lot of anxiety, stress and apprehension related to resuming their practice, making changes both infrastructurally and behaviorally according to the new normal," before adding, “It’s been challenging meeting expectations & taking care of ourselves & loved ones. Not being able to contribute in such times is an added emotional burden for us.”
Dr N R Sreehari, Senior Consultant Neurosurgeon, Department of Neurosurgery, Amrita Hospitals, Kochi stressed upon the fact that Covid-19 added extra layers of protection and thereby increasing the operational expenses.
“To manage and reduce spreading of infection even surgical equipment such as operating microscopes and drilling machines were given barrier coverings to avoid seeding of infection. Such extra, unavoidable precautions consumed more operating time. And it eventually increased the cost of the surgery which is a load on patients and family too.”