Assaulted for providing care during a pandemic
Lack of PPE is a global crisis facing healthcare workers. In India, health workers are also threatened with violence and assault. Henil Upadhyay, a new intern, shares the challenges of starting work as a new doctor during a pandemic and the change he envisions.
The winter of 2019 brought long gruelling nights of studies for final year medical students like in India. Coming into 2020, we were filled with excitement for passing our exams and were eagerly looking ahead to start the next chapter of our life as intern doctors. At the same time, news of new infection was emerging out of China.
At that time, we didn’t even believe that it would reach India, let alone that our careers would begin by facing the biggest global pandemic of our generation. And why would we? We were under the illusion that we are invincible. We were fresh graduates. Politics, economics and foreign affairs were certainly not our priorities.
As summer began in India, this cloud was sharply lifted. I know suffering, grief and death would be a part of my day job, but I never thought I would be facing a situation so heart breaking, uncertain and endless. I am torn. As a medical intern, of course, I have an immense desire to serve the people around me. However, as much as I fear infecting the people I care for, I equally fear becoming infected.
"as much as I fear infecting the people I care for, I equally fear becoming infected."
As strange as it may sound, this pandemic has resolved my desire for continuing in clinical practice. Although it is difficult to stay away from my family, I have found a new family within my hospital. A family that remains optimistic and steadfast in fighting this disease. The camaraderie inspires me, and I know we are doing our best.
But I have seen the volatility of human beings. Just a day after India stood up in solidarity and clapped to thank all the health care workers, many health workers were asked to vacate their homes by their communities due to the paranoia that they will spread the disease in their areas from the hospitals. Relatives will assault doctors for coming late to see their loved one. Our leaders proudly call us front line warriors, but fail to provide us with adequate PPE, and expect us to work under extreme pressure with minimal support.
"Relatives will assault doctors for coming late to see their loved one."
Medicine was always held as one of the most highly esteemed professions – how did society become this way?
The bigger lesson I am learning is that the force and course of nature is always superior to that of human beings. We cannot ignore the changes in our environment and climate change, which will continue to make dramatic impacts on the world around us – leaving us as victims. As we destroy habitats, and animals are exposed to new environments, we will surely only see more new infections emerging. But we shouldn’t be afraid, as we also have a chance to do something about it – if our politicians and society pay attention.
As we move forward, standing as a national and global community is imperative. Divides along lines of race, religion or nationalism will not work in fighting a global disease. We increasingly cannot ignore the health issues in another country. We are interdependent.
Finally to all my peers around the world: in this moment of crisis let us serve our communities selflessly for the moment of darkness will pass. But, after it has, let us not forget the lessons as new challenges will inevitably come.
Pramukhswami Medical College
The British Student Doctor Journal is starting a new series of articles to share the stories of healthcare workers and students tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
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