By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-03-26 08:38:23
Prime Minister Modi has said that at times like this, those in white coats are God reincarnate. To understand the risk doctors and other workers of the medical fraternity run by exposing themselves to suspected coronavirus patients, one has to look at the case of the Delhi doctor who was posted at a mohalla clinic in the city. He contacted Covid-19 (it is not yet clear whether he had traveled abroad or got it from an asymptomatic infected patient) and now his wife and daughter have also tested positive. All three have been admitted to the hospital. Patients and others who visited the clinic between March 12 and 18 are being identified and have been asked to go in quarantine.
Since he was not directly treating Covid-19 patients, the medical protocol did not prescribe any extra or special protective gear for him. He could just use a disposable surgical mask and disposable gloves as a precaution. That is the biggest problem. Since Covid-19 patients do not always or immediately show symptoms of the disease, doctors treating a huge number of patients at any such facility like the mohalla clinic are always at risk. They might have to examine patients by looking inside their throats if they complain of cough and cold. If the patient is infected with Covid-19 and sneezes or coughs at that very moment, the droplets are likely to infect the doctor too. Ordinary citizens can maintain distancing, but doctors have to get close to patients in order to examine them thoroughly. That is why PM Modi calls them God reincarnate and that is why people like us should not only appreciate their efforts but also treat them with the respect that is due.
But is that happening? There are reports from across the country that doctors and their families, nurses and their families and medical staff and their families are being ostracized in some areas. In some places, they are even being asked to vacate their rented homes. Yet, these are the same people who will knock at their doors even at 2 am in the night if someone in their family falls ill in the coming days. Society must change its attitude towards doctors. In other times too, doctors and medical staff become easy prey for mobs who wish to vent their 'anger' at the death of a relative without realizing that the doctor's job is to save the patient and not kill him or her. Doctors are always charged with negligence. There is no doubt that there are some 'commercial' doctors for whom money-making is the main mantra but their percentage is negligible. In any case, bad fish is there is every profession but that does not mean we can vilify every member of that profession. Most doctors try their best to use their knowledge and experience to treat patients and make them recover from their ailments. Hence, we should appreciate their efforts and in times like these, stand up and salute them.
Across the article, the word doctor should also be taken to mean other members of the medical fraternity like nurses, pathologists and other technicians, ward boys and other hospital staff without whose active participation, doctors will be constrained to perform their duties efficiently.