As the country is seeing an exponential jump in Covid cases, doctors and nursing staff are under severe mental stress and worry that the quality of treatment of Covid patients would suffer if this continues. With the second and more severe wave wracking the country and state, the health professionals face the real possibility of a burnout. The Healthcare workers have been working continuously since the onset of the pandemic in March last year (2020).
The COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways brought in many challenges. The health care workers continue to provide care for patients despite exhaustion, personal risk of infection, fear of transmission to family members, illness or death of friends and colleagues, and the loss of many patients. Many of the health care workers also faced other challenges such as long shifts and personal isolation, all these have affected the person’s ability to cope.
At Covid wards, doctors see at least 10-12 patients die every day. In the first wave, most of the casualties were of senior citizens. Now a lot of patients in the 20-30 age group are passing away.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report estimates that 7.5 percent of Indians suffer from some sort of mental disorder. It further states that India has just 0.3 psychiatrists, and 0.07 psychologists, per 1,00,000 people. Given the brutal second wave of the pandemic and news of a highly burdened healthcare system in the country, many are mentally and emotionally overwhelmed.
The pandemic has brought about a sense of fear and anxiety among healthcare professionals and this is leading to short-term as well as long-term mental health issues.
Isolation and loss of near and dear ones have severely affected the mental well-being of many of them. Reduced access to family, friends, and other social support systems have also led to loneliness increasing mental issues like anxiety and depression.
The WHO and several other health organisations have reported of very high levels of psychological stress among the health care workers. Meanwhile, some studies point out that the women health force is suffering the most. They are being burned out at a very high rate, the studies note.
(Dr Naresh Purohit is a Medical Expert and Advisor National Communicable Disease Control Programme. He is also Advisor to six other National Health Programmes. He is visiting Professor in five Medical Universities of Southern India including Thrissur based Kerala University of Health Sciences. (The views and opinion expressed in this article are those of the author)