As the novel Coronavirus started spreading like wildfire, the first to be called to the site of the action were the healthcare workers. Hospitals all over began working overtime in order to get a grip over the spread. In this race to win the battle against the invisible enemy, the healthcare workers have had to digress from their usual routines. They were pushed to adopt a harsher schedule. This sometimes compelled them to put in days of work without any respite. Dr. Somil Savla, a 24-year old, 1st year Junior Resident at the Nair Hospital, Mumbai, joined in with his services, to provide any relief he could.
The rise of Covid dedicated centres
Ever since the pandemic hit the country, there was a need for Covid dedicated hospitals. Hospitals that would cater only to the needs of the people infected with the novel strain. In April, the Nair Hospital became the first hospital in the city, with an attached medical college, to become a dedicated Covid centre. This, as the pandemic began looming large and stretching out its grasp, thus infecting people exponentially. Dr. Somil thus went from seeing patients with multiple health complications, to seeing exclusively Covid-19 positive cases from around the city.
Life in the PPE suit
As highlighted by the Business Standard, life inside the personal protective equipment (PPE), is anything but comfortable. Rashes, difficulty in breathing and an extreme feeling of discomfort, are what wearing the suit entails. Speaking about this, Somil says “The equipment, a sterile suit, mask, gloves etc. takes about 10 minutes to wear and another 10-15 minutes to remove with all sterile precautions. Once inside the PPE, you cannot eat, drink or go to the washroom until the end of your shift. It is hot inside the suit and sometimes the healthcare worker can suffer from dehydration. This is why we hydrate ourselves adequately before and after the shift.”
Life has certainly changed for the healthcare workers and for this 24-year old resident, the case is the same. “I am pursuing my residency in Psychiatry but since the past couple of months, that has been put on the backburner. We are now focused on dealing with this massive challenge in front of us which is Covid-19”.
But he reiterates the feel-good factor that comes with patient care, during these times. “It is honestly quite a daunting task to go into the Covid wards. The thought about personal safety does cross one's mind often. However, when you see the suffering of the patients, all of these thoughts become irrelevant and patient care becomes primary. Isn't this the reason why we all became doctors in the first place!”
Mental health is another war
Another aspect, which is now beginning to emerge is the focus on the mental health of these healthcare workers. The Los Angeles Times highlighted this. It is predicted that at least 20-25% of healthcare workers in hard-hit areas are likely to develop anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress. This is thus a rising concern. This young doctor lays emphasis on the fact saying “All resident doctors are used to working long hours. Our training is intense and gruesome. As a budding psychiatrist myself, I feel my fellow mental health professionals have to take care of our own mental health. Moreover, we also need to take care of the mental health of other medical professionals fighting the same war.”
Somil’s biggest fear is spreading the infection to his loved ones. “I haven't gone home in 45 days and I think it will be at least a few months before I can have a cup of tea at home. This despite living only 15 minutes away from my hospital.” The health community resonates these similar feelings as healthcare workers over the world, are shown in visuals, avoiding hugging their young children or even so much as going close to them, as they fear they will pass on this infection.
“On a community level, I do fear cases exploding in number. The Government and the healthcare professionals are taking this challenge head-on. I would request everyone to cooperate, follow the rules laid down by the Government and not engage in rumours spread on social media so as to avoid unnecessary panic.”