Better to be afraid, than infected: Doctors urge caution as restrictions are relaxed

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on June 30, 2020

Dr Arun* calls his parents every day. It was not so in the pre-Covid days, he says, when he would call them several days apart. Now that he works in a Covid hospital in Mumbai, his parents are scared for his health.

“People don’t understand that the infectivity of the virus is high. Corona has made us equal, anyone can get infected,” he says, cautioning people to not let their guard down as the Centre’s “unlocking” measures come into force on July 1 and restrictions are relaxed. “It is better to be afraid, than be infected,” he tells defiant young people who dismiss the need to wear a mask.

Doctors at risk

July 1 is also Doctors’ Day and members of the fraternity observe that people don’t seem to take Covid-19 seriously, adding to an over-stretched healthcare system.

“For doctors, it is not a regular day at work, it is very stressful. When we go back from work, we need to see that our parents or children do not get infected,” says Dr Aniruddh Ambekar, owner of Lifeline Medicare Hospital. Two of his three hospitals are dedicated to Covid and the third takes care of people suspected of being infected, he says.

“Even a healthy person’s lungs can get badly affected because of the virus. People need to see a doctor if they show symptoms like a fever, cough or breathlessness for 2-3 days. The earlier you are diagnosed the better you recover,” he says.

Doctors are at constant risk from the virus, he says, despite the personal protective gear and masks. “We have taken a separate place for our doctors and nurses to stay,” he says, adding that insurance, food, remuneration, etc need to be taken care of, to retain good staff.

In private institutions, staff get a 15-day quarantine after a month at work, he says. In Government hospitals in Mumbai, for instance, doctors get seven days of quarantine after seven days in a Covid ward. Several are quarantined in five-star hospitals in the city.

Falling prey to the virus

Sometimes doctors are not able to leave after an eight-hour shift, especially if they are specialists in critical care wards, says a doctor in a Government-run hospital. There are instances when the support staff get infected, but are unable to care for their family when they too get infected, says a doctor.

A doctor with a private Delhi-based hospital points out that older doctors who take hydroxychloroquine as a preventive are checked regularly for impact on their heart and eyes. “It is not easy to go in to work, under such risk to yourself,” he says. Recovering from Covid, another doctor urges people to understand the gravity of the situation, “this is not a nice virus to know,” he says.

Urging people to not be impatient, Chennai-based Dr Pradeep Kumar K, an arthroscopy surgeon with Sir Ivan Stedeford Hospital, says, “Doctors find it difficult to even breathe in an N-95 mask for too long, leave alone do surgeries, etc wearing protective gear.”

Pointing out that countries have shown it’s possible to get out of the situation, he says, “this is not the time to go out. We are in the midst of a storm and have to let it pass.”

Published on June 30, 2020

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