Need Safety More: COVID-19 Warriors on Military Show of Support
Doctors at COVID-speciality hospitals react to the 3 May event by the armed forces to thank frontline workers.
Flypast, showering of petals on hospitals and lighting of navy ships at sea – India is all set to witness a grand show by the country’s armed forces on 3 May, in view of expressing gratitude towards the COVID-19 frontline workers.
This announcement made by the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and three service chiefs on 1 May was met with both disbelief and appreciation from doctors directly involved with treating COVID-19 patients.
‘Govt Must Prioritise Protective Kits For Hospital Janitors, Other Medical Staff More Than Army Tableaus’
Dr Subarna Sarkar, resident doctor working in COVID ward at Sassoon General Hospital in Pune, is of the view that “a little bit of clapping feels good but a big tableau is not needed right now. It yields absolutely no concrete results and is a diversion of resources, time and focus from things that are far more important at the moment. I don’t think one big tableau can change the mindset of the whole country.”
Dr Sarkar says in the fight for protective gears, the hospital janitors are often least prioritised although they are the ones who clean the floor, dispose of the trash, handle the bodies of those who have died due to COVID-19 and are vital to keep a hospital running. “Maybe the government could refocus its attention to help them better?” Dr Sarkar wonders.
Similar questions were raised by a medical officer working at a community health centre in Jharkhand’s Garhwa. We are withholding her identity on request. She was part of the team of health officials involved in screening migrant labourers who returned to the state and were quarantined at a government shelter. She says, “While the senior doctors and the AYUSH doctors were given proper N-95 masks, the other staff who were present during the screening, like Multi Purpose Workers (MPWs), anganwadi workers, etc and were directly coming in contact with migrant workers were only given ordinary masks. The government must do something for them.”
‘Single-Day Appreciations Won’t Stop Violence or Stigma Against Doctors’
A junior resident doctor at RG Kar Medical College Hospital in Kolkata, who did not wish to be named, told The Quint, "These small gimmicks will not help at all. For doctors, true appreciation can only come from a patient. Unfortunately, these one-day events will not change the suspicion, the spurt in violence or the stigma against doctors.
He added, “Appreciation cannot be a single-day event. It has to be inculcated in the minds of the people.”
'Working With Life Risks Need Not be Glorified, Instead Mitigated’
Dr Karthikeyan M, senior resident doctor at Delhi’s AIIMS, said “Frontline doctors need not be glorified for risking their lives. If a person dies, there is no glory in it. We need to ensure that all doctors across all hospitals are getting proper protective gears, as is required. I work at AIIMS so I am getting a proper PPE but I know a lot of my friends who are not working in the top hospitals are getting very thin suits which do not really help.”
He further says, “If a doctor dies because of COVID- 19, the government should ensure that he/she gets a proper cremation or burial."
The senior doctor cited an example of his friend in Coimbatore, who worked as a doctor and passed away due to Dengue. The deceased’s burial was marred with protests from locals who thought he died due to COVID-19. A similar horrific case was reported from Chennai when Dr Simon Hercules, a neurosurgeon who had saved many lives during his tenure, was denied a final resting place by locals by a mob due to coronavirus fears.
‘No Harm in Being Appreciated, Especially by the Army’
On the other hand, some doctors are also of the opinion that a gesture of gratitude towards frontline workers, especially by the Armed Forces, will boost the morale in these difficult times.
Dr D Himanshu, head of the corona ward at Lucknow’s KGMU hospital said, “We always look up to the Indian Armed Forces. When they do something to appreciate doctors, it always feels special.”
A junior resident doctor at PGIMS, Rohtak, says, “Doctors work in strenuous conditions continuously. The event planned by the Armed Forces can provide a psychological relief for them. The healthcare workers will be definitely motivated and there will be better participation.”
The junior doctor also said, “Having said that, I also feel that appreciation should come secondary to ensuring basic needs for COVID-19 fighters.”
Similar thoughts were echoed by Dr Shivang Shukla, final year resident doctor at JJ Hospital, Mumbai who says, “A little appreciation will not do any harm, it does feel special. But, as a doctor I would also like some more concrete measures from the government like providing PPEs to all, better implementation of government directives, etc.”
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