WHO declared the Novel Corona Virus outbreak a Pandemic on 11 March 2020. This led to a Nation-wide lockdown in India and in a lot of countries as well. This meant that the healthcare systems of countries would come under a lot stress and this pandemic would definitely test their limits. India being 35th on the World Health Index was in a load of trouble as well owing to the fact that India is the second largest populated country in the world and this large population is also extremely densely populated and since the Corona Virus was a disease which was transmitted very easily, this was a huge problem. Lockdown led to a reduction in movement of people and had a significant impact on the lives of people with not having immediate access to healthcare being one big problem. This made people anxious, restless and fearful. With cases soaring to new heights each day, urgent hospitalization was required for a lot of people as well and all the pressure came down to the healthcare workers. With the immense pressure of treating thousands of agents to not being to meet family member for multiple days to seeing people die in front of their eyes, the healthworkers were ill-treated, misbehaved with and hence, protection of these workers was and still is very important.
In 2020, there were a few incidences of violence with the healthcare staff. In April 2020, there was a case in Delhi where two doctors were allegedly assaulted by a neighbour of the hospital who accused them of spreading the disease. On April 19, 2020, a mob in the city of Chennai attacked the ambulance carrying the body of a neurosurgeon who had died of the disease for cremation. Incidences like this kept increasing and a solution had to be provided for the same. Hence, the Indian government, gave an ordinance in 2020 itself which made violence against healthcare workers a non-bailable offence punishable with upto 7 years of imprisonment. This ordinance amended the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and aimed at protecting the doctors, nurses, paramedics and community healthworkers from harassment or physical injury. But the problem is not just limited to physical injuries, healthcare workers are the most vulnerable to the disease, being and fighting on the frontline in this war against the pandemic. Not only the vulnerability but the mental trauma the workers have to go through is immense and incomparable. The World Health Organization (WHO) also called upon the governments and healthcare leaders to handle the persistent threats to the health and safety of healthcare workers. WHO also reported that 14% of the Covid -19 cases reported to the WHO were among healthcare workers and in some countries the rate was as high 35%. Also relating to the mental trauma, WHO also said that one in every four healthcare workers reported depression and anxiety and one in every three reported insomnia.
5 steps to improve this problem as stated by WHO are-
- Establish synergies between health worker safety and patient safety policies and strategies.
- Develop and implement national programmes for occupational health and safety of health workers.
- Protect health workers from violence in the workplace.
- Improve mental health and psychological well-being.
- Protect health workers from physical and biological hazards.
Other ways of supporting and helping the healthcare workers can be providing mental and physical support, with a very low doctor –patient ratio in India, doctors work for longer hours and hence taking breaks is very important, eating healthy food is also necessary. The healthcare workers also received eviction threats from their house owners due to the stigma that they are carrying the infection, this was discouraged by the government, but it is also important to make the people realize that these workers are working for the society, day in and day out and ill-treating is not justifiable in any way, threatening them in any way is not right. Mental support and encouragement services must also be available to the workers by designated counselors and psychologists to help relieve stress and mental fatigue. Other than this, doctors and other healthcare staff can also be mentally boosted by being appreciated for their dedication and hardwork and being rewarded for exceptional contributions. Additional incentives and Insurance protection for the workers and their family members can also be used as effective strategies to boost the morale of the workers. After the pandemic is over, the healthcare workers who’ve worked selflessly must be awarded in any which way by the government and the people of India.