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Covid-19: Spiral of Burnout and Depression Among Traumatized Doctors Across India | India News


NEW DELHI: It’s the silent toll of India’s deadly second wave.
After a terrifying month in which Covid-19 overwhelmed the country’s deteriorating health system, doctors and nurses on the front lines of the pandemic say they were pushed into physical and mental exhaustion as they struggled to keep their patients alive.
Mousimi Das had to treat his own mother at his Calcutta hospital as countless patients, including the father of a colleague, died around him, working 48 hours straight without a break. He has a message for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We are exhausted, frustrated and depressed,” Das said by phone, his voice cracking with fatigue. “Please visit us. Please listen to us. If you don’t listen to the doctors, nurses and staff working in the field, you can never improve the health infrastructure. ”
Das is not alone. Bloomberg spoke with a dozen doctors who described a nightmare scenario: continuous high-risk exposure to the virus, a never-ending stream of patients and deaths, and long hours in sweat-soaked PPE outfits that made even bathroom breaks difficult. It is causing exhaustion, anxiety and insomnia among large numbers of India’s 1.3 million doctors and complicating the fight to contain the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
More than 1,200 doctors have lost their lives so far in a country that has reported nearly 27 million cases of Covid-19, according to a number kept by the Indian Medical Association.
Chronic underfunding
Even before the pandemic hit India, its health sector ranked 110th out of 141 countries, behind Bangladesh, Indonesia and Chile, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2019. The rural towns and villages of the South Asian nation, home to nearly 70% of India’s 1.4 billion people, have only a skeletal health infrastructure.
The number of doctors per 10,000 people in India has dropped to around nine in 2019 from 12 in 1991, according to data on the World Health Organization website, while the country’s health spending was just 3 54% of GDP, lower than in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. , Egypt, China and Kenya.
Unhealthy infrastructure
India must now strengthen its healthcare system by investing in strong infrastructure and human resources and making its data transparent, said Yamini Aiyar, president of the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research.
“We are fighting the pandemic on the basis of an extremely brittle and broken system,” Aiyar said, noting that the state and federal governments had missed the opportunity to improve health care and governance during the hiatus between the first and second. wave of the pandemic. “That is one of the fundamental reasons why healthcare workers are under great pressure.”
Exhausted, depressed
For doctors like Anita Gadgil, chief of surgery at a Mumbai hospital, it is the sheer volume of deaths that is difficult to bear. “The personal losses combined with the uncertain and distant end of this pandemic are causing helplessness and frustration among doctors,” he said. “We are simply living day to day and duty for duty.”
There is little support for those suffering from burnout. Several doctors Bloomberg spoke with said they and their colleagues had increasingly turned to smoking and alcohol to numb their minds after long work shifts.
The bureaucratic bureaucracy only adds to its difficulties.
Nurses in New Delhi went on strike in December to force the government-run Institute of Medical Sciences of India to pay three months of wages owed to them. The industrial action only ended after a higher court intervention forced the federal government to guarantee that their wages would be paid.
In India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, 16 doctors resigned en masse last month from their duties at government health facilities after officials blamed them for the worsening virus situation, while resident doctors of four government hospitals in Mumbai threatened a hunger strike because they had not received a mandatory increase in the payment of fees from Covid. That increase has since been eliminated.
Citing surveys and spending trackers maintained by the Center for Policy Research, Aiyar said that “poor quality public finance management” meant it was common practice for salaries to be grouped into six-month payments rather than monthly salaries. regular, adding to an already stressful situation.
Better wages
A good health care plan, better salaries, decent quarantine facilities and security equipment are essential to ensure that medical personnel receive proper care, said Monali Mohan, a doctor who has worked with international non-governmental organizations to improve the facilities of state health.
“Delayed wages or a lack of monetary incentives make you think that the authorities don’t even think about the work they are doing,” Mohan said.
There are also safety concerns, as angry family members often express their frustration and pain at healthcare workers. Deaths from shortages of drugs, oxygen and hospital beds have made the situation worse.
In the last year, Das has faced death threats, rape threats, and even shoes thrown at her and her colleagues at the hospital. Talking about better insurance plans is far-fetched at the moment, he said. “A little respect and being safe would be enough.”

Times of India