‘Covid second wave was the toughest time in a doctor’s life’

As experts suggest the next wave may strike sooner with states ending lockdowns and people throwing Covid norms to the wind, doctors have tougher times ahead.

Facing long exhaustive working hours during the second wave of pandemic and wearing PPE kits, doctors have got very little breathing space, literally. There have been no vacations and no off-days. Now they prepare for the next wave amid heightened anxiety of catching the virus themselves.

As experts suggest the next wave may strike sooner with states ending lockdowns and people throwing Covid norms to the wind, doctors have tougher times ahead.

‘With each positive patient, we are putting our lives in danger’

“When we became doctors, or chose this profession, we vowed to take care of people. What we did not sign up for was working 24-hour shifts in PPEs as we suffocate, sweat and dehydrate profusely inside that wear-in jail. This pandemic has left the healthcare workers most vulnerable. We have seen our own contract the virus and succumb. We have been left with fatigue, anger, frustration and helplessness,” says Dr Uttam Thakur, president of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) at PGIMER.

Terming the behaviour of people reckless which further agitates the Covid warriors, he says, “People are flocking markets and hill stations as if there is no tomorrow. Masking up is the basic precaution required, but no they will not do that. What they fail to realise is with each positive patient, we doctors are putting our lives in danger treating them. This now seems like a never-ending process — battle waves, prepare for the next, then battle wave again. If people mask up, we will be motivated to save them, help them.”

Recklessness may drive up third wave

This recklessness may very well be the reason to act as a catalyst for the initiation of third wave. “Third wave may strike sooner than we expect if people behave as carelessly as they did after the first wave. Masks and social distancing are still important as they always were during the pandemic. Most of the people are still not fully vaccinated, so we will have to be careful,” said former Panchkula CMO, Dr Jasjeet Kaur.

Talking about mental fatigue and how Panchkula is dealing with it, she added, “Yes, medicos are now tired but we are a bit liberal with casual leave and flexible times to help them take well-deserved vacation and get household work in order. At the same time, preparedness for next wave has started. Trainings are being organised for refreshing their knowledge and skills, especially in ICU/ HDU duties. Hope for a less severe third wave but we are ready to deal with it if and when it reaches us.”

‘When not working, we’re taking calls, answering queries’

The pandemic coupled with the epidemic of mucormycosis has further stressed the doctors. Dr Vinci, ENT junior resident at GMCH-32, says, “Working in this pandemic with mucormycosis on a rise coupled with long working hours and no offs in past few weeks has taken a toll. It’s not like we didn’t work hectic days earlier but it’s become tiring now. There are days when my family remains concerned, with work not giving me the right mindspace and time to talk to them properly on several occasions.”

The work done by doctors does not remain subjected to their official working hours but stretches into their personal lives and well-being. “Even when not officially working, we are taking calls, coordinating and answering queries. So yes, round-the-clock we are contributing towards handling this pandemic. Initially we were energetic and on our toes but with days and weeks crossing by without any breaks working in general ward under heat, it has become difficult. People with mucor come in a debilitating state. Survival becomes a question for them. It is hard for them and for us as well,” Vinci adds.

New variants worrisome, masks only respite

Re-stressing the need to opt for protective measures, especially in view of new emerging variants of the virus, Dr Sachin Verma, working in internal medicine at a private hospital in Mohali, says, “As new variants come up with reports that even those fully vaccinated may not be completely protected and reports of the Delta plus variant which may spread even with the slightest of contact are worrisome. As waves progress and new variants emerge, the time of exposure required to be infected is quickly decreasing with severity of the disease increasing. Masks and precautions are extremely necessary.”

Insisting vaccination is not a 100 per cent guarantee for prevention, he points out, “Vaccination will only prevent severity, not infection. Several despite taking both doses, especially in medical fraternity, have succumbed. Vaccines are all new, nobody has seen their exact efficacy. We need to be very careful.”

However, mental fatigue among doctors remains the biggest concern in medical fraternity right now. “First wave had lesser severity, cases were low and manageable. In the second wave, we faced shortage of beds, oxygen and medication. We were treating amid a lack of resources. Mental fatigue and pain have already set in. A lot of effort is required to treat patients but motivation is now low with cases increasing. More than 1,000 doctors lost their lives but still didn’t get the respect we deserve. We are beaten. People like Baba Ramdev say anything they want to. All without any repercussions all of which is affecting the morale of doctors. If soldiers fighting on border have their morale down, the fight would of course be affected,” he says.

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