THE PLIGHT OF OUR HEALTHCARE WORKERS

Most of us must have seen the video of a doctor from Bengaluru, appealing to other doctors to help him out in his hospital. Although the hospital has all the infrastructure needed to treat COVID – 19 patients, they are lacking human resources. The managing director of HBS hospital located in Shivajinagar, Dr Taha Mateen said in the video “I have beds, I have oxygen beds, I have ventilators, I have all the equipment. I have another 30 beds like this, but I don’t have doctors working here”. He was seen speaking from inside the ICU unit of the hospital. He appealed to healthcare professionals (including nurses) to give him 6 hours of their time to treat the patients. He said the doctors are now frontline warriors, just like the Army men and policemen are in certain situations. Though the exact number is not available, an estimate of more than 1000 healthcare professionals, which includes doctors, nurses, para medical staff and lab technicians have tested positive for Corona. The issue of shortage of doctors are being faced by most of the states in the country including the worst hit states of Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. This shortage is not an unforeseen crisis. Doctors had issued warnings repeatedly ever since the first case was found in India that the healthcare system is going to be overwhelmed if the virus isn’t contained efficiently. With the lockdown not being as successful as it was expected to be and public negligence, now the worst has happened. When Dr Mateen asked his staff to not abandon the patients and work in the hospital, he was asked “If I fall sick, will you take care of me?” So, why are these nurses and doctors who had committed themselves to save people’s lives now closing their clinics and not reporting to their hospitals in the middle of this pandemic? Even as the Health Ministries of various state governments assure that they are well equipped to handle the crisis, the evidence available on social media proves the contrary. Take a look at some of the reasons which drove the medical professionals to take a leave of absence.

Lack of adequate numbers of doctors and nurses

According to WHO norms, there should be once doctor available for every 1000 citizens, but in our country, we have one doctor per every 1445 citizens. Our availability of nurses is also at 1.7 per every 1000 citizens as opposed to 3 nurses which puts us 43% behind the WHO norms. We have 3.07 million registered nurses and this number isn’t sufficient as the pandemic is progressing. If assumed that 80% of registered doctors are available for service at a given time, the doctor to population ratio is at 1:1404. The WHO has set up the norm at 1:1000. These numbers are enough to make it clear why the healthcare community have been overwhelmed currently.

Shortage of PPE kits

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are the gear required by doctors to keep themselves safe from getting infected via frequent contacts with patients. Unfortunately, owing to a delay in government’s policy making and gathering resources for these kits, health workers are facing a shortage of PPE kits. Even the available ones are not of the best quality in many places. Many private organizations took it upon themselves to raise fund and provide these kits to doctors. While asking them to risk their lives on the frontlines, government still hasn’t able to supply necessary amounts of PPE kits.

Lack of respect and decent salaries

It is a sad thing that even today the healthcare workers must go on a strike to receive basic amenities like a decent salary, efficient gears and facilities. For all the work they do, these professionals aren’t paid an adequate amount. From the Delhi government questioning why healthcare workers got infected by the virus in spite of PPE kits to a COVID affected doctor in Chennai denied dignity in his death, they have experienced all kinds of disrespect in what is supposed to be one of the worst periods of their life. Sure, we clapped for them and showered flower petals on them to boost their morale, but how is it going to benefit them unless it is accompanied by basic values of humanity? It is easy to blame the government for most of these shortcomings, but aren’t we all as citizens have contributed to this fatigue of doctors? How many of us have promptly stayed indoors unless it’s absolutely necessary, after the lockdown restrictions were lifted? How fair have we been in our treatment of doctors in our communities? Now, it is on all of us too, to correct our ways before we drive the remaining healthcare workers also withdraw their services.

  • Jahnavi TR

  • Bengaluru

References – https://fit.thequint.com/coronavirus/is-india-fighting-covid-19-or-its-doctors-challenges-faced-by-healthcare-workers

Picture credits – indianexpress.com

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