CHENNAI: Walking into the isolation ward to treat patients, even after our colleagues and friends fell terribly sick with Covid, was the scariest part of being on the frontline of the pandemic, say doctors recalling their harrowing experience dealing with an unknown infection, ahead of the National Doctors Day on July 1.
“I encouraged my staff to take risks to save more patients. But some of them eventually contracted Covid. How do I encourage others then?” asked Dr R Sriram, consultant, emergency medicine, Gleneagles Global Health City. “The disease was unpredictable and I felt guilty when my staff fell ill. The only way we moved forward is by constantly motivating each other,” he said.
“We rose to the occasion and discovered everybody’s individual potential and specialities,” said Dr Thirunavakarasu, an orthopedician from the Kilpauk Medical College. He added that the professionalism displayed by the healthcare workers in the public sector, changed public perception about government hospitals. “Earlier, educated people went only to private hospitals. Now even educated and influential people want to get admitted in the public sector as we have efficiently handled an enormous case-load working multiple shifts day after day,” he said.
One day, some of our patients gasped for breath and the alarm bell went off warning us of a oxygen shortage, recalled Dr Spoorthi Arun, Internal Medicine, Promed Hospital. “The supplier said he would take at least two hours to reach the hospital. The doctors worked assiduously to make sure that no patient faced an emergency during that time,” she said.
Dr Spoorthi, who is certified by the American Board of Medicine, said working in Chennai during the pandemic taught her how people took medicines, oxygen and availability of beds for granted. “Some of our colleagues died, but stopping work was not an option for us. We came into this profession to save people,” she added.
Dr Shreevidya Venkataraman, Internal Medicine consultant with MGM Healthcare said that when she wore a PPE, she was gearing up for a war. “On some days when there was an acute shortage of beds, we had a waiting list of 30-40 patients. Some of them were doctors’ family members, who contracted it because we exposed ourselves to the virus accidentally.
Deciding which patient needed the bed more was a harrowing decision to make every time,” she said. “Doctors are not gods. Violence and bitterness unleashed on us demoralises us. On the other hand, some expression of gratification on their part will go a long way to boost our spirits,” Shreevidya added.