Coronavirus Outbreak: What India’s Covid-19 medical heroes urgently need besides Sunday’s 9 minutes of light
In November 1315, less than 1,000 Swiss farmers armed with rocks and axes defeated a more than 3,000-strong, trained Austrian army in the Battle of Morgarten. A ragtag band of men overpowered a much bigger and sophisticated force with fiery patriotism and unyielding morale, creating ground for the formation of the Swiss state.
Now, imagine if the Swiss farmers were to fight without even those rocks and axes, and some of their own people jeering or attacking them from the sidelines.
Doctors, medical officials and caregivers in India are today fighting a war far more daunting than the Battle of Morgarten, an enemy invisible and infinitely more destructive.
However, their only weapons — personal protective equipment (PPE) such as medical suits, masks, gloves, goggles, shoe covers — are acutely short in supply.
Many of them are being ostracised by the very people they are protecting. They don’t have a place to stay if they don’t want to go back home and put their families at risk. And now, they are being attacked by the men who have killed many and put thousands at risk by with their bigoted religiosity and reckless arrogance.
White coats, dark clouds
India has so far restricted the number of coronavirus cases to 2,547, with 62 deaths. But our caregivers are stretched to their limit. More than 50 of them have already tested positive for COVID-19.
Their mental and physical well-being should be on the top of the nation’s agenda for action, not just a symbolic gesture, when it comes out at 9 pm on Sunday with candles, diyas and cellphone torches.
The biggest threat looming over India’s grim battle against the pandemic is to the safety and morale of its brave but under-equipped health force. If the government and civil society do not act swiftly and sensitively, we will lose this fight.
If just janitors and other vital staff — men and women who quietly wipe vomit off the wards, take around patients in wheelchairs, carry medicines, or do the billing — start deserting hospitals, the system will come to the brink of collapse. Doctors giving up means catastrophe.
The Jamaati siege
Wilful and criminal negligence of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz mosque has already cost India over a hundred cases and several deaths. Mixing evil with ignorance, those infected and quarantined after the Jamaat event have spat on doctors and medical staff, and in places such as Indore, Madhubani and Ahmedabad, mobs have attacked caregivers and cops with stones and weapons.
Some quarantined Jamaatis have been misbehaving and roaming semi-nude, making it impossible for the female medical staff at Delhi’s LNJP Hospital to function.
The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, cannot deal with new challenges of these vested interests using a pandemic to destabilise a nation or society. A maximum of six months in jail and a Rs 1,000 fine under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code for breaching the Epidemic Act is laughable.
Doctors and officials are justifiably horrified by what many on social media are describing as Tablighi Jamaat’s “bio terror”.
Not geared up
Every state is dealing with shortage of PPEs. There are not enough N95 masks, gloves or medical suits. Even two- or three-ply masks are short in supply despite the commerce and industries ministry banning exports from January.
An oncologist from Bengal, Dr Indranil Khan, exposed the state of affairs when he tweeted about doctors and nurses in the state being forced to used raincoats and plastics bags to dispose biomedical waste as protective gear. The Mamata Banerjee government promptly addressed his concern by detaining him.
Many doctors and caregivers are scared to potentially take the infection home to their wives, parents and children but have no temporary accommodations.
Daggers for saviours
And to top it all, fear is bringing out the worst in people at some places, with society turning on its own saviours.
“Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers involved in COVID-19 care are being asked to vacate their rented homes and some have been even forcefully evicted from their temporary residence by landlords and house-owners due to the fear that those healthcare professionals make them susceptible to coronavirus infection,” said a recent letter from the Resident Doctors' Association of New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences to Union home minister Amit Shah. “Many doctors are now stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country.”
Medical staff unions at several hospitals have threatened to go on strike because of such problems as well as shortage of equipment.
A country where the doctor patient ratio is 1:1,457 instead of at least 1:1,000 recommended by the World Health Organisation — with a shortage of 6 lakh doctors and 20 lakh nurses — cannot afford a medical staff strike at this juncture. The domino effect will be devastating.
Updated Date: Apr 04, 2020 11:11:00 IST
Tags : Corona Virus, Corona Virus News, Coronavirus, Coronavirus In India, Coronavirus India, Coronavirus News, Coronavirus Oubtreak, COVID-19, COVID-19 In India, Delhi, ICMR, Ministry Of Health And Family Welfare, Mumbai, Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi On Coronavirus, NewsTracker
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