Doctors, nurses deserve respect, compassion – The Hindu BusinessLine

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On the current impasse, the Centre needs to scale-up quality medical education and in an equitable manner

Medicine and politics make for a potent mix. But add to this, protests by doctors and Omicron, and you have a dangerous potion the country could well do without.

This is not another protest to watch on television and change the channel. These are members of a medical fraternity who have been at their post, at many a bedside, for two years on a trot.

Two years that included two waves of the coronavirus, something we have come to know only too well.

Or as one doctor from Patna recently pointed out to this correspondent, everyone knows someone who lost someone in the second wave.

All this, as the highly-mutated and transmissible Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 hovers dangerously in the air, as the world enters a third year of the pandemic.

Even on a good day, hospitals run short of hands and many young doctors and nurses admit they work long hours, sometimes with little time to grab a coffee. But the pandemic inflicted a different type of toll on them, a risk to their personal lives and families — a situation they may have not quite signed up for.

And yet, many say in private conversations, they were afraid of the risk they faced, but pulled themselves together to treat patients day after day.

Working through Covid

The personal stories come tumbling out, as one senior doctor in Delhi lets-in on how he was nervous of taking home the infection to his mother who had cancer. Another points out, that despite getting beds and oxygen for as many patients, they worked knowing fully well, there was no guarantee of a hospital admission if the doctor or her own family came down with the infection.

A doctor recounts how they lose a little bit of themselves when you have to triage and decide who you save and who you let die.

A decision that doctors face in their lifetime, but a lifetime’s decisions were to be made in two years, as the surging pandemic took a deathly toll.

Instances are recounted of doctors having to pay hefty amounts for an ambulance for a family member, or another heart-rending experience, of a doctor losing both parents to Covid-19, knowing that he possibly took it home to them. How is he taking it? Was he counselled? The stoic reply — he is back at work, and no, there was no counselling.

Nurses point out that unlike doctors, their problems are still less visible to the outside world. And it’s they who stay in the wards with patients, sometimes working without holidays or compensation in any other way.

Nurses’ woes

Probe further, and they recount various times they have stepped up during endemic situations or the surge in cases of dengue or swine-flu, for instance.

Matter-of-factly, they say, that was the need of the country and so they played their part.

Stepping back from the noise of political explanations, the question that arises is, why have matters come to such a pass?

None of this comes as a surprise, even though, now the NEET-PG counselling issue bounces between government and Court. Instead of using might, the best way forward for health administrators is to work with the doctors to resolve the impasse.

Not verbally, but with tangible interventions on the ground to help ease the burden on the medical fraternity.

The immediate problem to resolve, is the deadlock on bringing in more doctors into the system. But in the larger interest of public and community health, the Centre needs to scale-up quality medical education and in an equitable manner, where it is accessible to all, without restrictions of caste or financial resources.

Put simply, a scientific approach to medical education, sans Centre or State politics.

Only this can get more doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff back in hospitals, doing what they are trained to do.

Doctors protesting on the streets signal a worrying symptom of a festering problem. And it needs to be addressed with speed, honesty, and in a civilised manner.

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