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As the COVID-19 crisis rises each day, healthcare workers continue reporting to duty setting aside personal fears. Two doctors share their experience.
While many of us are working and studying from home, healthcare workers and professionals continue to go to work every day. They continue fulfilling their duties and commitments to their patients. Right now, it is a particularly trying time for doctors. They still have to go about their lives while dealing with the emotional and mental toll the lockdown has taken on their lives.
Curious about the stakes they were facing during this time, I was happy to get to interview two doctors from Motherhood Hospitals, Dr Sireesha Reddy and Dr Kavitha Lakshmi Easwaran. Dr. Sireesha is a Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist, with a specialisation in Laparoscopic surgery, infertility and Reproductive Medicine, Dr. Kavitha is the Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist in Bangalore. From their observations about the pandemic to expressing their personal fears about the future, their perspectives carry a strong message.
“This is a different kind of experience that has taken us by storm,” explains Dr Kavitha when I asked her about the crisis.
Both Dr Kavitha and Dr Sireesha told me how OPDs has shut down due to lockdown. They said that due to the social distancing measures, hospitals have reverted to video calls and conferences with a patient.
“As far as daily OPDs are concerned, doing crucial scans involved were hard,” explains Dr Kavitha about the changes in the hospital and by extension, her day-to-day work.
“There are still emergency obstetric services provided for women. IVF programs have been stalled and the infertility sector has been particularly impacted,” says Dr Sireesha.
For the field of obstetrics and gynaecology, in particular, Dr Kavitha says, “I don’t see women planning for pregnancies during this period. New mothers and pregnant women, who are at-risk groups, have a lot of anxiety, particularly with social distancing.”
Dr Sireesha described a complication that a woman undergoing a tubal pregnancy. She had to come down to the hospital after she observed that the patient was in a lot of pain while on a video call.
The doctors presented how the pandemic is gendered and the burden that women and children carry as the primary victims of abuse as well. They also gave a unique perspective on women in crisis, as well as female healthcare professionals during this trying time.
“Within the healthcare system, they come from different walks of life. As for women healthcare workers, there are nights we do not sleep. When I think about it, I realise that the impacts will not only be around me and a risk to my family. The hospital has to shut down and that puts an enormous pressure on each doctor to be extra careful,” says Dr Kavitha.
Meanwhile, Dr Sireesha spoke about how the transport system now had made it difficult for women like her to travel to work. “There is now a little bit of fear there at the back of my mind, especially dealing with transport and leaving my family.”
“Being an obstetrician, it is the family that takes the toll of the work. Though our family always stand by us. It has been different in terms of stress-related to even possibly passing it on to near and dear ones,” says Dr Kavitha as she talks about her family’s support and how that has helped her despite the mixed emotions she feels. “Getting exposed, the backlog still remains, but we cannot really say no,” echoes Dr Sireesha as well.
“Kids need to understand the gravity of the situation. Children to understand that there is a problem. There is a fear that this is a big disease. Parents have to give a briefing to their kids and take on a positive attitude and approach towards this,” Dr. Sireesha advised. Her own son has been facing confusion and going through a range of emotions about the pandemic and her going to the hospital.
Dr Sireesha, when commenting on the fragile healthcare system pointed out how “Testing kits have just come into the market and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) are still lacking and need structural development.”
“No country was prepared as nobody has the kind of infrastructure,” adds Dr Kavitha, alerting us to the degree of this global health emergency and the peril that frontline workers are in.
Dr Sireesha spoke about marginalised communities lacking the basics- food, water and medical support during this time. “The government has to look into these healthcare needs. There could even be temporary clinics after some time so doctors can help them out,” she adds reflecting on the many healthcare gaps this crisis has revealed.
When I asked them about some of the major discussions this pandemic has opened up, Dr Sireesha pointed out how social distancing would continue. “Health and hygiene will be one for sure. Particularly what we eat and how we take care of our bodies. It is hard to pinpoint where it starts so containment and prevention are key,” she says.
“I believe this will open up different theories. We’ll understand how we deviate against nature and we should monitor what we eat. We will build a good social culture of social distancing and changing our habit,’’ says Dr Kavitha echoing her sentiments.
Dr Sireesha, meanwhile, pondered upon how this crisis will increase the level of preparedness and help us learn from some of the adverse effects of the nationwide lockdown. “The govt will be more prepared and deal with it better. Such as the hospitals to be earmarked, helping migrant workers and much more. Tomorrow, if this recurs, how will they go about it.”
“There is still a lot of enigma concerning this disease. Social distancing is here to say. Even after the lockdown, this caution will remain,” explains Dr Kavitha.
Overall, the COVID-19 Crisis has seismically altered the healthcare system. It has shown us just how high the stakes are during this period and how healthcare workers are navigating this pandemic as well as daily life.
“It may be a namaste instead of a handshake,” Dr Kavitha concludes as she muses whether the fears of this disease could restore our cultural traditions and roots. This alerted me yet again, to the shocking reality that life as we know it has changed forever.
Picture credits: The doctors themselves provided the pictures
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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