‘Patients Are in Diapers; We Change Them’: Mumbai’s Resident Docs

“We feed, clean and change the diapers of our patients, there is a lot of added pressure and not enough staff.”

3 min read

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj and Purendu Pritam

“Patients are in diapers, because they are breathless. We can’t let them go to the bathroom; what if they collapse in the bathroom?”
Resident Doctor, Mumbai

A resident doctor in one of Mumbai's COVID hospitals, tells me, "There are patients in diapers in need of changing or who need to be fed. We can't say no to them, that would be inhuman."

Healthcare workers across India – and the world – are under immense pressure. In Mumbai, the hardest-hit city in India, doctors are buckling under the strain.

Young doctors – residents, house officers and interns – are at the frontline of our battle against coronavirus. They do much of the fieldwork (and grunt work!) and yet, little is known about their specific struggles.

These young doctors are heavily overworked and woefully understaffed – and yet they carry on because they must.

"Of course we are scared, but not showing up is not an option," says another house officer from Mumbai, "But we took an oath."

They spoke to FIT on the condition of anonymity, as the cost of speaking out can be harsh.

‘Not Enough Staff; Too Many Patients’

“We have many added responsibilities and many more patients to see – if a patient’s asking for water, we are not going to say no, we can’t. How can we, that would be inhuman?”
Resident Doctor in Mumbai

“We would be a lot more effective in saving lives, if we had help. We could then focus on the medical management of it. We do all that, we do give them water, we do carry them to the bathroom and out when they collapse inside.” says a resident doctor from Mumbai.

“There is a decrease in the sanitation workers, basically the ‘mama-moushis’ who come and clean. They were responsible for taking care of patients.So cleaning them, giving them bed-pans or diapers or water because everyone in the ICU is extremely critical, so no one can walk or get up and go to the bathroom.”
House Officer, Mumbai

Class 4 workers consist of ward boys, attendants, sweepers and peons, class 3 workers are staff nurses and clerks.

“There’s a lot more pressure on you. You are doing things you didn’t have to before. Even loading medicines, and for a doctor, you’re not used to doing that – it’s a challenge to find where different drugs are kept also. Your job is different, a nurse’s job is different. You kind of absorb different jobs,” adds another resident.

“If class 4 workers aren’t there, their [patients] diapers don’t get changed and they are there in their own urine and faeces throughout the day. Imagine 24 hours in a state like that, it’s really dehumanising.” 
Resident Doctor in Mumbai

With the absence of these vital healthcare workers, resident doctors have to do their jobs, besides managing their roles.

So resident doctors feed, clean, and take care of their patients – which often means making choices between critical patients for lack of manpower.

But class 4 workers have their own struggles.

From being hired as contractual labour to delayed payments, and no option of home quarantine in small houses in a cramped city like Mumbai.

So, often the risk of working in a COVID ward is too high against the insecurities they face.

'We Need to Hire More Staff’

“The thing we need to focus on is hiring more people. There’s X amount of work to be done, and there is only so many people. Among us, we can try and change our shifts and things like that, but beyond that, the administration can’t do much until more people are hired,” said a house officer.

‘Not Coming for Duty Not an Option’

“I never thought of that as an option only, that we can’t come to work. Because we have always come to work.”

“We are doctors, it's our responsibility. We are answerable.”

“When we work in a COVID ICU or a ward, just watching a patient recover is the kind of motivation that keeps you going.”
House Officer, Mumbai

(This is a syndicated copy from FIT. Read the original article here.)

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