National Doctors’ Day 2021: We are not Gods, say doctors

Saviours seek security from society

Society

July 1, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Excess workload, poor security and familial pressure made doctors life during pandemic a living hell. Media India Group talks to a resident doctor at LNJP hospital in Delhi about the challenges she faced over the past 18 months.


Violence against doctors and other healthcare personnel has grown alarmingly since the Covid-19 pandemic hit India as patients’ families or friends often resorted to physically assaulting these professionals on suspicion that their relative was not given proper care. According to IMA, even as 800 doctors succumbed to Covid-19 this year, there have been dozens of cases of assaults of healthcare professionals in the country by the angry next of the kin.

Doctors say that those resorting to violence forget that the pandemic has put an unprecedented pressure on healthcare, with overcrowded wards and millions of patients to attend to. Yet, despite the grave risk that the pandemic carries for the healthcare professionals, who are the first among the frontline workers in curbing the pandemic, doctors say they have been working and working without a break for well over a year and many have had to pay the ultimate price for this dedication.

The degree of pandemic is so severe that not just experienced doctors, but also resident doctors and medical students have been deployed at the forefront.

Dr Upasana Singh, who has just completed her MBBS and is pursuing postgraduate course, has been working in a dedicated Covid-19 hospital since last August.

She has also spent several months attending to patients in Intensive Care Units. Singh says all doctors take a lot of risks, working for days at end without a break to save the patients’ lives, but they don’t always succeed.

“I don’t want people to think that doctors are equal to God. Think of us as humans only. We are human, we make mistakes, we also get tired, and we also have emotions. I just want people to stop thinking that we are God. We learn things, and we try to treat our patients. It’s not like we have a magic wand, which we can use and the patients will be alright,” Singh tells Media India Group.

With 1 doctor for 11,082 people, India faces a huge shortage of doctors (MIG photos/ Aman Kanojiya)

With barely 1 doctor for over 11,000 people, 11 times more than what the World Health Organisation recommends, even before the pandemic, Indian doctors had a very high workload. The shortage is so severe that India needs 2,070,000 doctors by 2030, says a study published in Indian Journal of Public Health. During the second wave of pandemic, unprecedented number of patients, and death of hundreds of doctors, led to a huge pressure on younger doctors, especially the resident doctors.

“Usually, they don’t give so much work to freshers. But as there are very few doctors, so we had to work more. Even earlier, there were very few doctors, and many doctors are now resigning, so very few doctors are left. Moreover, doctors were also falling ill and hence could not be there. Day by day as the number of doctors available for duty decreased, more pressure came on the freshers, on the post graduate students like me and we had to work hard,” she says.

During the second wave, India recorded up to 400,000 daily infections of coronavirus, leaving hospitals and medical personnel struggling. Dozens of doctors have been assaulted by relatives of Covid-19 patients, making doctors worry about their own safety while trying to save lives of patients under their care.

“No! Doctors are not at all safe in India, during the pandemic. I was working in ICU where relatives are not allowed to enter, but in an emergency, relatives can also come. There, they shout on the doctors and if the patients die they get angry at the doctors, as if the doctor is the one who took the life of the patient. It’s not at all safe, they start to break things. They beat the doctors. Many doctors get threats like, see my patients, otherwise I will beat you up, and they say these things in a very casual manner,” she says.

The rising number of incidents of attacks on doctors by relatives of patients has led to a sense of insecurity amongst the doctors, who want to be able to do their job without a threat of violence hanging on them.

Maximum workload during the pandemic came on the shoulders of the resident doctors (MIG photos)

“If the other patients are dying and doctors are trying to save them, instead of treating those, patients whose relatives are present, they threaten us and tell us to leave other patients and attend to their relatives, else they threaten to beat us up. We want security; there is no security for doctors in India,” says Singh.

The doctors are not just attacked in hospitals but even at home, doctors have not always felt safe. There have been cases of doctors being attacked by their neighbours as they believed that by working in Covid-19 wards, they were bringing the infection home and hence threatening their safety.

“At the same time, news was coming of neighbours throwing things on doctors, not allowing them to enter the housing complexes where they stayed. Some doctors were getting beaten up, because people thought they are bringing Covid-19 in the society. It was not at all respectful. If the government had taken action against the people throwing stones, then I would have said, that’s the kind of thing we want,” says Singh.

Doctors say they take lots of risks for themselves and their families. They put all their heart and mind into saving people but cannot succeed always.

“They need to see us as humans, not some machine working to save their relatives. We give our lives for their patients. They need to change their thinking,” she adds.

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1 COMMENTS

  1. Great content! Keep up the good work!

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