THE ferocity of the second wave of Covid-19, compounded by an acute paucity of hospital beds and medical supplies and healthcare staff strength that is rapidly falling short of the spiralling need, has left an unprecedented trail of infections and deaths. Watching this chaos-riddled painful gloom from close quarters are doctors, nurses, technicians, ward boys, mortuary workers and other staffers. The trauma of dealing with so much sickness and their helplessness in accommodating all needy patients, even as they risk catching the virus every day, is taking a huge mental toll on these frontline warriors. They are reaching the end of their tether as patients, including their own colleagues, are slipping out of their hands at an alarming pace and grieving relatives are bombarding them with all kinds of requests and recriminations. The new peaks witnessed daily in the past month have strained resources and stretched the workforce thin, leading to a war-like situation.
The state of affairs has rendered the overwhelmed and overworked healthcare staff vulnerable to a host of psychiatric issues. They are physically burnt out, emotionally exhausted and mentally distressed due to the extreme work pressure since the pandemic broke out more than a year ago as also keeping away from their loved ones for fear of exposing them to the infection. It is triggering anxiety, insomnia, depression, frustration and other problems among an increasing number of medical professionals. Some of them are resorting to excessive use of ‘substances’ to cope with the stress.
It is essential to address their problem not only for their own sake but also because only healthy physicians can offer optimal services. A ‘burnout helpline’ for healthcare workers set up in Haryana’s Panchkula Civil Hospital received 15 calls in just two days. Replicating this measure in all district hospitals is bound to assist the affected caregivers throughout the country. Building a network of psychotherapists on whom the medical personnel can fall back on must be prioritised as their mental well-being is vital to fostering a resilient and strong healthcare workforce.