The COVID-19 pandemic has left a trail of grief and loss for humanity around the world. Work from home (WFH) has been the only option for many for a while now.
However, one of those who have worked braving all challenges in these unprecedented times is the healthcare workers. Facing several challenges such as working for more than 15 hours every day, facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), enduring verbal as well as physical attacks, sacrificing personal life, the list goes on. According to Indian Medical Association (IMA), 864 doctors have sacrificed their lives in the service of the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have left behind children and families.
“In January 2020, when the first coronavirus cases were reported in Calicut, we never expected the numbers to rise so rapidly. None of us were prepared for this pandemic and the uncertainties it brought along with it. Not just did we fall short of hospital beds and medicines but there was a shortage of healthcare workers too,” said Dr Ganesh Rathod of Shivkripa Hospital in Ambernath.
“We doctors are also human beings and have faced our share of fear in the last one and a half years. After learning about the virus and its effects, we had to take extra precautions and follow protocols with our families and colleagues,” he said.
“In the beginning, many doctors chose to keep their hospitals and clinics shut and travelled back to their native places with the fear of contracting the virus. We realized that our first task is to eliminate the fear from their minds and thus we, doctors along with some social workers started counselling and explaining to them about the virus and the need of the hour. PPE kits cost about Rs 2000 which was uneconomic for many of us, so we stitched about 100 protective clothes out of the material similar to surgical clothes which also included caps and masks.”, he added.
Gradually, small clinics and hospitals started opening up but there was a need for Fever outpatient departments (OPD). So they set up a few fevers OPDs with the help of the Ambernath Municipal Council. They provided the doctors with precautionary equipment, allotted a specific number of hours for each doctor, and opened the OPDs free of cost.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, only Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai and Pune were conducting tests in Maharashtra. As the government gave allowance to some private labs to conduct Reverse Transcription and Polymerase Chain Reaction tests (RT-PCR), we listed down names of individuals who had returned from abroad in and around the city and conducted an RT PCR testing camp,” said Dr Rathod.
Pranali Jadhav, a nurse at the Shatabdi Hospital, Govandi, Mumbai said, “I’ve been working as a nurse for the last 12 years, and for the past one and a half years I am working in the COVID-19 ward. Most of us were asked to stay near the hospitals at the accommodation provided by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). But apart from being a nurse, I am also a mother and have a family to look after, so I travelled from my home in Kurla to Govandi every day. Even after taking all the precautions and wearing PPE kits in the hospital for two to three hours straight, my family and I were tested positive for COVID-19 in August 2020. Fortunately, we recovered soon but it has been a tough journey so far.”, she added.
“Wearing the PPE kits every day for more than 7 hours and operating patients was so challenging that at times I felt like giving up. We avoided going back home and preferred spending the night at the hospital. I tested positive and was critical for 15 days. But that didn’t stop me. I got back to my job as soon as I recovered. As the second wave of the virus followed, I lost some of my family members and close friends to COVID-19 but as they say, the show must go on," adds Dr Rathod.