Young medics in the pandemic: Exhausted, overburdened and fearful
Since the pandemic struck, life has certainly turned topsy-turvy for one segment of frontline workers, that is, doctors. From working in shifts 24X7 to consoling the patients’ families, while putting their own lives as well as their families’ lives at risk, most docs have been doing it all. But this time has been especially challenging for the young medics, many of who started their careers right in the midst of the pandemic. And having overcome most of the challenges, what still pains them is the treatment that they are meted out, whenever a situation goes awry.
Reportedly, in the recent most incident, two doctors from AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital were “teased” for “spreading corona”, and attacked by locals in Delhi’s Gautam Nagar area. But this is just one of the many cases of violence against doctors and other healthcare workers across the country. Dr Saif Ashraf, who works at Hindu Rao Hospital’s surgery department, says, “I’ve always been someone who likes to keep my work arena fun no matter how sad the situation gets. But this one day, during my shift at the Covid isolation ward, I had three critical patients. One moment I was sitting there sweating in my PPE kit, and the next moment I was trying to revive a crashing patient, who unfortunately couldn’t make it.” Recalling the subsequent horrifying incident, he adds: “What followed was a distressing encounter with the patient’s attendants who came in howling, blaming me for the death! They had to be calmed down. But in the very next moment I had to rush to another patient who had started gasping, and I couldn’t save her either. I remember crying in my suit at that very moment... What people don’t realise often is that we (doctors, nursing staff, ward boys and other healthcare workers) are also emotional beings, who are somehow getting up every day with positivity, risking their own lives, and dragging their bodily limits until it reaches the brim of tolerance.”
“They make it seem like we are in the midst of a war and that we are the ones who can help save lives and then suddenly the narrative takes a heartbreaking turn and we are the villains!” states Dr Diksha, who works in Respiratory Medicine at Safdarjung Hospital. She feels that young Covid warriors need a proper redressal for their concerns and the masses in general need to be sympathetic to the cause of the doctors who are burning the midnight oil to serve the patients even now when the situation seems quite ‘normal’. “It’s a vicious loop. The relatives get agitated when a doctor doesn’t respond to their queries, and the doctor is hesitant because of the incidents happening around, which could make him or her end up with the same fate as their peers. The doctors are unable to dispel even half of the rumours that are abuzz in the public domain because we cannot drag you from your homes to give a treatment; the patients have to come and seek it! We cannot run around telling people that we aren’t the villains of their story. Actually, we are at the lowest step of the hierarchy of people who are making all the decisions, yet we are bearing the brunt of it all,” she adds.
The Capital has started to breathe easy due to the respite from the scary second wave that jolted most. But, the young doctors in the Capital, many of who started their careers with intensive Covid-19 duties, confess that they are feeling exhausted, overburdened, and continue to work in fear of being attacked whenever things go wrong. Overcoming the grief and chaos, these young medics are also struggling to deal with the anxiety of an impending third wave. “It’s so disheartening to see the morale in the hospitals. We are doing 36 hour shifts! There is stress, pain and concern all around yet doctors have continued to serve even while dealing with their personal losses, non-payment of salaries at various hospitals, and not to forget the strenuously long working hours,” says Dr Noopur Gupta, a post graduate resident in ENT at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. She informs how treating cases of mucormycosis or black fungus turned their work into a war scale fight, and adds, “When we had started out, we were showered with praises. But soon after we had to face the scorn of people whose family members could not be saved. We are young, we are working harder than we possibly can, and doing all this only to see our patients recover. But now, we need to address the stress that the medical professionals are reeling under, and not be casual about it, else a third wave wouldn’t be far behind!”
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika
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