Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants.William Osler
A disease prevalent and affecting the entire world alike – a Pandemic, this is that once in a life time event , that our generation is seeing, up close and personal. Being forced to stay at home, sudden rise in public etiquette, faces covered with masks, and utmost respect for healthcare workers. I could never have imagined this, at-least in India.
What went wrong?
A virus, a very resistant one it seems, with a very high ability to spread, as created havoc around the world. Most of the us, including me(I was traveling through USA during mid march), did not think of it as a major risk. It was assumed to be similar to the seasonal influenza virus or maybe the H1N1 type of a virus, that will spread locally in China and around and go away. I wish that is what happened.
The virus, slowly and steadily, creeped into most of the countries catching most of the administrations and the callous populations unalarmed. Who prepares for a pandemic? in today’s world, countries only prepare for war. The armies are loaded with the most modern guns, and training and tanks and jets, in name of protection of the people of the state.
A war without weapons?
I am a doctor, working in one of the leading government hospitals in New Delhi, India. I might be soon deployed for duties in COVID wards. And even the thought of it, gives an adrenaline shot. I want to be a part of this. I want to serve people, maybe save a few. Why else did i choose this profession for?
And if in this process,I can be of some use to my country, just the thought of it make me feel like a soldier. But a soldier at war, always has adequate equipment. Guns, bullet proof jackets, helmets, tanks and so on. What does a soldier do without a gun? What does a doctor do without a mask? Without adequate Personal Protective Equipement? Serving others doesn’t mean I put myself and my family at risk.
What about the Oath we take?
The famous Hippocrates oath or the modern version of it, which is adapted from World Medical Association, Declaration of Geneva states – ” I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat”.
My rights, my families rights and the patients that I see, their rights, all are endangered if I work with inadequate PPE’s. No doctor, would ever want to run away from duty, or from serving people, till he gets ideal conditions to work(which unfortunately, we mostly don’t get).
Prevention is better than cure?, Preparedness is better than panic?
Countries that have faced pandemics and taken them seriously (South Korea) already had plans in place, funds in place and systems in place to tackle this. Prevention is definitely better than cure, but if the possibility of such scenarios exist, do we actually need to let it hit us so hard? Were we actually unprepared for a possible event, that endangers life of more civilians than even a war? Lockdown’s are a great measure to control this, but what if we regulated air travel or implemented other mitigation policies earlier? had adequate funds and hospitals and PPE?
Resign? is that even an option?
In times of trouble, how can someone run away from their family and their home. The patients are nothing less to us than family and the hospital nothing less than our home. No doctor would even think of resigning or going on strike at these times. But that doesn’t mean we will go into a fight without a functioning gun and get killed, and rather put our old parents or young children at risk at the same time.
When does this end? And does healthcare change after this?
A leading American stalwart, Dr.Fauci recently stated – “ We don’t determine the timeline, the virus does”. This question cannot be answered better. No-one knows what is the timeline when we can, without fear, go out for a vacation or maybe a concert without fear. The virus will decide that.
Healthcare in a developing country like India, is one of the highly neglected essential service. Till now, the number of cases in India are controlled. But if a situation like USA or Italy arises in our country, we do not have enough hospital beds, qualified doctors, ICU’s or PPE. Also the people traditionally have little faith in our healthcare professionals assuming they loot them with expensive services.
I find it hard to believe that 5 years from now, anything will change. Doctors will still be beaten up when a patient dies, who already was terminal. There will be poor primary health care centres with minimal infrastructure, and maybe a broken pandemic policy (India has revoked a 123 year old Epidemic Regulation Act to empower the state government to control the pandemic). India is a country where things like army, religion based political agendas and big political parties will keep polarizing people and funding thousands of crores for their election campaign instead of putting it in much more important places, like healthcare.
Dr.Fauci also said – “It is what is is”. This quote sadly fits this situation the best.
I still look forward to my COVID duties. Can’t wait to get to the hospital and kick this bug out of the country and probably write about that experience soon.