Saturday, May 15, 2021

Our hospitals & health workers

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, things have not come just to a sudden halt; they have, in many cases, turned upside down. The most striking example is that of the hospitals. Something that was meant for all the sick and diseased became specific for COVID-19 infected patients. In a way, the pandemic staged a coup in all the hospitals. Initially, neither the administration nor the people, in general, bothered about this. The sense of being overtaken by this health emergency was so overwhelming that it left none room for thought about its consequence. As things unfolded we realized that dedicating most of the hospitals to COVID patients wasn’t such a great idea. Given our limited resource here, we cannot establish hospitals at the speed it was done in China. What we can do is to manage our existing infrastructure efficiently, and make a room for routine patients as well. Though there is a spike in COVID cases from last week, but the concern for non-COVID patients, if we can call them so, is growing. There are many reports that patients have suffered immensely because there is either no space for them in the hospitals, or they desist going there fearing they might get infected. The result is that patients are suffering, their ailments are worsening, and it endangers many lives. In this situation, administration cannot look the other way when it comes to making arrangements for regular patients. How this can be done is a hard matter right now. But doctors, and other concerned people must be taken on board to find out solution to this problem. There are serious ailments, like cancer, that can brook no delay. At a time when private clinics are not affordable and even some closed, if government hospitals also deny treatment to regular patients, where will these people go. Either we should designate some hospitals for COVID patients, and make the rest available for regular patient care; or else make some emergency arrangement for regular patient care. The current situation is not tenable, and the administration should seriously get thinking about it.
We are aware that even in normal days our hospitals are overloaded, and the staff working there is faced with multiple challenges on that count. Doctors, paramedics, and other associated staff work under tremendous pressure in our hospitals, given the rush of patients, and the limited resources. What complicates the situation for them is the attitude of some officials, who don’t understand how doctors are supposed to deliver their duties. No wonder, the recent circular on diet allowance for health workers in Dimapur on COVID duty has created resentment amongst health workers, both in the Government and private sectors. As per the circular issued on July 30 last, which quoted a Government Order, dated 9th June 2020, health workers on COVID duty are entitled to only Rs 300 per day for diet. “Health workers under COVID-19 Hospital, Dimapur, staying in hotels willing to avail more quantity/quality food besides the specified amount will have to bear the extra expenses by themselves and also the bills should be countersigned by the team leader on daily basis which will be further forwarded to the Principal Director, Health & Family Welfare for necessary action,” stated the circular. As reported in this paper, health workers lodging in hotels are provided only rice and dal in the morning and afternoon worth Rs 300. This amount doesn’t stretch out for dinner hence no dinner is served to them. For dinner, they have to pay out of their pockets. We all know that this pandemic has brought all our systems of governance under tremendous strain, and topping the list is healthcare. Doctors and paramedics are working under dangerous conditions, and we are now seeing many frontline workers testing COVID positive after treating infected patients. In such circumstances when doctors in our hospitals are struggling with the shortage of resources, and at the same braving this terrible spike in infected cases, we should not do anything that might distract their resolve. That is the least the health workers can ask for. In any particular case, no one can exonerate a doctor unless investigation is conducted, but normally the government should ensure that doctors are not overburdened, and the interface between them and the patients is unproblematic. In the present circumstances our hospitals and the staff working there need extra attention.