The deadly COVID-19, brought the whole world to a standstill spreading faster than the speed of light, people started getting affected at an alarming rate, stock markets crashed, corporate bodies had to close down, economies fell, recission is at the doorstep leaving everyone clueless.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the deadly virus has infected over 2.97 million across the globe, killing more than 2 lakh people, affecting 213 countries and territories as on April 27.
Out of the entire population the people working in the frontline–the health workers– are the most struggling due to this pandemic. Being at the forefront with the lack of protective gear makes them the most vulnerable section of this outbreak. As of mid- April over 22,000 health workers across 52 countries have been hit by the COVID-19, reports WHO.
Role of medical staff in crucial time
We all can agree, without a doubt, that the role of the doctors and nurses gained utmost importance after the outbreak of the virus.
The sick are relieved that there are medical practitioners to take care of them, but when it comes to these healthcare professionals, its scenario is quite disturbing.
These hardworking souls serve 12-13 hours per shift, risking their lives to protect humankind. In this process, they go through a lot of hardship, such as getting physical bruises to fatigues. The medical staff around the world are working as one in fighting this pandemic.
Do they have a choice? Maybe not, some of these professionals are compulsorily allocated in special wards built for treating patients affected by coronavirus. Amid this, the shortage of health care staffs burdens the medical students as they are being placed in the COVID-19 care units.
The doctors and nurses are being abused around the world.
Shocking right? Despite being in the frontline of this battle against the virus, these healthcare professionals are given the least human treatment possible. Some of the instances are as follows:
According to a report of CNN (Cable News Network) by Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination, “At least 44 attacks against medical personnel have been registered across the country since mid-March.”
Doctor’s Association in the Canadian Province — Ontario–says that the help received from the Government is not enough to tackle COVID-19. Clinics do not get sufficient grants from the Government, and the proposal from the provincial Government’s to offer advance payments will not be adequate to keep the clinics open during the pandemic.
The United States of America (USA)
Many medical practitioners in the states of New York and Oklahoma are being targeted due to the fear that these health workers are exposing others to the virus. Their vehicles’ tires are being slashed, and they have been facing violence from patients.
“Several healthcare workers in India have been attacked as they battle to stop the spread of the coronavirus. According to a report by BBC News, doctors have been spat at and chased away from homes, and there have been cases where the patients directed abusive and used vulgar language towards female nurses.”
Also, the Union Minister, Prakash Javadekar, had said that the crimes against health workers would be cognizable and non-bailable. The Central Government has brought an ordinance to end violence against health workers by amending the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which will allow imprisonment from 6 months to 7 years for those found guilty.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had declared via his speech addressed to the entire nation of March 9, 2020, that all citizens should clap their hands or bang the utensils from their balconies, in recognition of the service rendered by the ‘brave 24×7 workers’. Many doctors took to social media to demand much more than mere applause. Noticeable tweets by some of the doctors are as follows:-
I am a government employed surgeon. I have probably been exposed to Covid19, I cannot know. I haven't been tested. Our casualty still allows anywhere between 2-20 relatives per patient, & we see over 600 per day. Asking everyone detailed travel history is a luxury I can't afford.
— M (@unkittenish) March 21, 2020
I’m an intern in a government hospital in Maharashtra & in my hospital we have to try really hard to find even a basic mask to wear, other stuff like gloves, sanitizers are nowhere to be found while we need these the most in these times when many Corona suspects who complain…
— Dr. Perry the Platypus (@itrollmuggles) March 21, 2020
Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, President of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, had told Anadolu Agency that, “My main concern is that we, the healthcare professionals, are at the highest risk of getting infected. Many professionals around the world have lost their lives while treating patients. Thus I urge the Prime Minister to provide us with adequate protective gear, like masks, gowns, head covers, etc. A doctor can become a super spreader; patients can get affected. If we remain safe, we will help keep others safe.”
How governments across globe are tackling problems faced by medical staff?
The WHO in early March in a news release stated that the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) would endanger the health workers. The WHo had shipped above two million sets of personal protective equipment to more than 74 countries; however, the demand keeps on increasing.
As per a report by Forbs, the US healthcare workers are using office supplies, or reusing existing supplies of PPE due to the shortage. While in Italy, one of the country worst hit by the pandemic, around 61 doctors have scummed to death by mid-March. Similarly, as per the New York Times report, in Spain, nearly 14 per cent of the health workers have been reported infected.
In Pakistan, on April 25, 2020, dozens of Pakistani doctors and nurses have gone on a hunger strike to protest against the lack of PPE available for frontline medical staff treating coronavirus patients.
Response of Indian Government:
As far as India is concerned, the same issue is surfacing. Due to this, the doctors were forced to use raincoats and motorbike helmets to protect themselves, wherein the demand for PPE keeps on rising.
The Federal Ministry of Health, on April 9, 2020, had placed orders for 17 million PPE kits, which is more than the estimate of the same stated by HLL Lifecare Limited, a government-owned body that has been tasked to procure PPE. In Kerala, over 300 women-led micro-enterprises under the Kudumbashree have manufactured more than 14.50 lakh cloth masks.
Public expert, Anant Bhan told the BBC that the Government had not taken quick decisions in this regard and that expecting doctors to go to work without proper protection is not commendable.
It is also to be noted that prison inmates in Jammu & Kashmir are involved in making face masks as well under the supervision and guidance of the Jail Superintendents.
It is quite evident from the above that the Governments around the world are yet to take any productive steps to ensure the safety of these warriors. The safety of these healthcare workers is as important as a COVID-19 infected patient, as, without Corona Warriors, we will lose this battle for sure.