Sunday, 14 April, 2024

Caring For The Carers

Aashish Mishra

The COVID-19 pandemic made heroes out of health workers. They always deserved that status but had never got it. But during the contagion, people all around the world saw just how important doctors and nurses were and how dedicated they were to their patients. Healthcare workers were showered with admiration on social media, likened to superheroes and cheered and applauded on the media.
Of course, all of that was well-intentioned and meant to show genuine appreciation to our “frontliners” and “medical warriors” and in hindsight, one cannot help but wonder how much that was praised just for the sake of praise. Because, for all our love and respect for our healthcare personnel, very little actually changed for them. They were forced out of their homes, or in some cases, forced to needlessly remain in their homes in the name of isolation, by their landlords and neighbours. They have not received the risk allowance they were promised and some lower-tier professionals have not even got their salaries for several months. Anyone who has ever gone to a private hospital in the past 10 months has also seen many clinicians coming in direct contact with potentially infected patients without any personal protective equipment.
These are not hidden problems that none of us know about. These are out in the open that have been covered comprehensively by the media. Almost everyone knows someone who knows a doctor or a nurse or a hospital staff who has been facing these problems. Yet, what have we done about it? Have we even thought to do anything about it? We, as the aware public, are quick to support the health-carers online but have done unforgivably little to help them offline. When doctors are shouting for better working conditions, they are shouting alone. When nurses are asking for their salaries, they only have each other for support. It is not that the people went silent over the past year. They have been vocal, sometimes even taking to the streets to protest; just not for the healthcare workers. We have not adequately cared for our carers.
Perhaps it is compassion fatigue. With so many cases, so many deaths around us, forced isolation, loss of livelihoods, the burden of poverty and the heightened political atmosphere, we could have been understandably desensitised to an issue that seemingly does not affect us or our loved ones. But that should not keep us from paying attention to the people who are quite literally working day and night to save our lives. However bad we may think the COVID-19 situation is in the country, we must remember it would have been much worse had it not been for our “health heroes”.
Our medical personnel are spent; our doctors and nurses and everyone who supports them are spent, both physically and mentally. They have not taken a day off in months, have not been with their families in weeks and have seen sickness and death up close. These take a toll on the human beings that reside behind the protective masks and the white coats, a toll they might never recover from.
Media cheer and applause are great but it is about time we do something concrete. The health staff are facing numerous challenges, let us help solve at least one. Helping our doctors and nurses keeps their morale up, which in turn, helps them treat their patients better. The health sector is overwhelmed at the moment. So, we must do our part to take some of the load off. When a country is at war, the entire population unites behind the army. Something similar is currently needed for our medical team. After all, they have not been called “frontliners” for nothing.