By Joymala Bagchi
New Delhi [India], April 14 (ANI): While the whole country is fighting against the COVID-19 crisis, the ones on the frontline, doctors and healthcare workers, are working excruciatingly hard for the welfare of the patients and to minimise the damage to the society due to the pandemic.
The lack of a definite cure for the infection makes their work extra tough and there is also the added pressure of calming the nerves of the patients and their families. For this, the doctors not only have to attend to patients in person but also have to stay connected to them over the phone and through video conferencing.
The threat of them catching the disease and infecting their own families also looms large over them, due to which most of the doctors have given up going homes and have shifted to solitary accommodations, where they go to take rest after completing their duty hours, which could stretch to 15 or even 18 hours in a day.
Talking to ANI, doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Sir Gangaram Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, who are looking after COVID-19 patients, shared the challenges they are facing.
Dr Rakesh Garg, Additional Professor, Department of Onco-Anaesthesia and Palliative Medicine, who is presently working at COVID-19 Facility, National Cancer Institute, AIIMS Jhajjar, said, "The disease is very contagious and till now we do not have any concrete solutions on how to manage it effectively which for us is the primary challenge. We always have to keep in mind that whatever we are doing for the patients should not be harmful, if it is not beneficial. We had to remodel the infrastructure into COVID ward keeping in mind various aspects."
He continued, "I had to curtail the fear in mind, due to my professional responsibility. I do not come home regularly as my parents are old and I have kids. My day generally starts at 6 am and I do not know when it will end. Initial days were really tough, however, luckily my family understands that it is the time to contribute to the nation rather than being at home. The best way is to lead from the front and we are doing the same. Also, I sit with the junior doctors, talk to them and take their opinion which works well with my team."
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is an essential gear that health workers have been mandatorily instructed to wear to protect themselves from harmful biological agents or contaminated surfaces.
However, Dr Suresh, Nodal officer, Head of Special Task Force (STF) COVID-19, LNJP and Maulana Azad Medical College, who is deputed at COVID ICU ward said that given the present weather conditions, wearing PPE for more than five to six hours is unendurable.
"It is not possible to wear PPE kit for more than seven hours. One cannot even use the toilet with this kit, but wearing it is a must for our safety," Dr Suresh said.
Narrating his personal experiences, he further said, "I do not take any of the hospital equipment home and keep almost everything in the car. Before entering the house I make sure to wash and sanitise myself. Definitely we all are humans and there is a fear, there is psychological upheaval, there is stress among all essential service providers, however, I think we must keep working because the nation is in trouble."
35-year-old Dr Keshav, Attending Consultant, Chest Medicine, Sir Gangaram Hospital, Kolmet, shared his concerns saying, "With increasing COVID-19 positive cases there is the fear of getting exposed to the virus and that is the point where we who are at the frontline seek support from family and friends. We doctors look after the patients and also quarantine ourselves after a period of two weeks. I do not even bring my stethoscope back home and take a shower immediately after coming back from work. I constantly challenge my fears and rise up to go for work even at the darkest hours of psychological turmoil."
Recently there have been several reports from various parts of the country of medical staffers being attacked and ill-treated. Many healthcare workers have also been asked to leave their rented accommodations either by the landlords or by the people living in their societies.
A 30-year-old nurse who works at a government hospital told ANI, "I am working at the COVID ward and it has been almost three weeks since I last went home. I have small kids and cannot afford to put them at risk at any cost. There are cuts and bruises around my nose but I know I have to keep on wearing the mask and the PPE to keep myself safe. At times we do get nightmares when we sleep and also cry out of fear but once we put the kit on we have to be ready to serve."
It is important to note that numerous doctors and healthcare workers have been infected with the virus while treating the patients.
Meanwhile, the Union Health Ministry on Monday said during a press conference that with the present stock of testing kits, India can continue testing for another six weeks.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said that the first consignment of COVID-19 kits from China will arrive in India on April 15.
As of Monday, an increase of 796 cases has been reported in the past 24 hours, with a total of 9152 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. As many as 857 persons have been cured/discharged after recovery and a total of 308 deaths have been reported due to the infection. (ANI)