As India grapples with a second wave of COVID-19, many healthcare workers took to Twitter to share what they are dealing with.

A health worker in PPE attending to a patientImage for representation/PTI
Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 13:44

“Please, please wear masks. I don’t know about other people but I’m physically and mentally exhausted with crazy shifts and calling more deaths than I did in all my years of service combined,” reads a tweet by Dipshikha Ghosh, a doctor in critical care medicine, per her Twitter bio.

India is experiencing what many are calling the second wave of COVID-19 infections, with several states reporting a surge in the number of coronavirus cases being reported every day. This comes even as India is in the third phase of its vaccination drive, and also trying to meet vaccine shortages as reported by many states. If doctors, healthcare workers and frontline workers reported burnout and stress in 2020 due to the pandemic, they barely had any respite before this second wave loomed large.

Many, including the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, have pinned the second wave of infections on people becoming lax in COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks properly and practicing physical distancing and hand hygiene. Some experts have pegged this on ‘caution fatigue’– essentially people getting tired of being on guard, in fear and alert against the virus, and being cooped up in their homes, leading to lower motivation to follow these protocols. Further, with most places such as pubs, eateries and function halls having opened up, people have started mingling and attending gatherings too. Prior to the recently held Assembly elections in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry too, political leaders took out large rallies, roadshows and organised gatherings with terribly lax COVID-19 compliant precautions.

With the above situations playing a significant role in rising caseloads, along with shortage of beds, oxygen supply and so on – much like last year – medical practitioners have once again found themselves in a bad situation with barely any respite. “I’ve distanced from family for almost 10 months. I’ve not done anything “fun” outside. I haven’t gone on leisure trips for my mental health. I’ve survived. I haven’t contributed to the pandemic. And it’s been a total waste,” Dipshika added in another tweet.

She also said that having to break the news of a death to family members of the person, and hearing them cry in grief and shock was the hardest thing she has ever had to do. “I don’t think any healthcare worker will ever be the same again,” she said.

Another Delhi-based medical professional, Dr Parul M Sharma, an eye surgeon according to her bio, urged doctors to protest against large gatherings across the country, pointing out that young doctors on COVID-19 duty are already fatigued.

Another doctor named Meenu on Twitter, by way of chiding a person who was speaking against the Kerala medical students whose dance on ‘Rasputin’ went viral, said, “Are doctors only allowed to work breaking their backs, sweating in PPEs to the point of dehydration, while there are COVIDiots walking around and partying like there's no pandemic going on?”

A medical intern further said that they did not want to experience the number of deaths they had seen in the last one year of internship, ever again.

A resident pathologist, Pallavi, pointed out that she had not been able to touch her books in a year because they were understaffed. “I have been on call 4 nights a week in addition to COVID duty,” she said. “And to everyone who says, "Thank you," to doctors, all I have to say is, "Shut up, stay home, wear a mask and act like a responsible human being." No, it's NOT important. Whatever it is, is not as important as people's lives,” she added.

Dr Lancelot Pinto, a pulmonologist in Mumbai, told BBC last month that while they are doing everything they can, doctors “don’t have the same mental strength as last year.” Dr Yatin Mehta, the chairman of the critical care department at Medanta Hospital, pointed out that India should have used the time when caseloads had dropped “to strengthen safety protocols, increase testing and tracing and ramp up vaccination" which wasn’t done. He too said that people should remember that healthcare workers are exhausted and overstretched, both physically and mental health-wise. 

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