The year 2020 will forever be etched in the minds of all of us- for the Crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. I doubt anyone of us may have witnessed such mayhem in his entire life. As put in the words of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) *“COVID19 has robbed us of people we love; It’s robbed us of lives and livelihoods; It’s shaken the foundations of our world; It threatens to tear at the fabric of international cooperation”. The pandemic has turned the world upside down, the health sector, education, socio-economic -everything has been impacted. Every aspect of our lives has been affected and it is bound to affect us for years to come.
In spite of the technical advances made we are striving for survival of mankind. The health sector is the most affected of all. As I write this more than 264 doctors have succumbed to COVID-19 and around 1,953 doctors have been infected in India accounting for 0.5 per cent of the total deaths in India due to Covid-19. In India, the mortality rate in doctors seems to be higher than that in the general population.
The statistics are pretty disturbing but they also act as a wake-up call for all doctors. There is a need for all doctors to think over about our attitude and behavioral trends while we practice during the pandemic. Why do we think the doctors are having a high mortality rate? Is it because we are treating patients? If you think so then there is a need to change your outlook. It is because of our attitude towards Health and Disease. The major causes of high infection rate include:
- Our Easy-going attitude towards the disease: We doctors have trained ourselves to be apathetic to the patient and disease. Since the days of our education we have developed this detachment with the disease process that our mind is always busy in going through observations, symptoms, medicine selection, prognosis that we hardly stop to think that we too can be affected. This develops the attitude of carelessness and we serve as easy bait for the virus. Firstly because we are in first hand contact with the patient and secondly because we are careless with protection measures. While practicing in our clinics we soon get the hang of treating patients and then we forget about sanitizing our stethoscope or how often we have touched our face or removed our mask. This can have a deep impact if the patient is COVID positive. So we should admit that this "invincible attitude" can cost us. Better safe than sorry should be our motto.
- Even if you do not work in COVID hospital you are susceptible: As the disease spreads to community with mixed states of presentation getting an asymptomatic patient in your clinic is not a nightmare. So we should not ignore the power of protection. All doctors must think about appropriate protective gear, sanitization methods, and testing strategies.
- Associated Comorbidity: Most of the doctors continue to practice beyond their retirement age. Also most of us suffer from Type II Diabetes, obesity, Hypertension due to our hectic and stressful lifestyle and we have wayback accepted these as part of our body. So we fail to realize that these comorbidities play a role in causing higher risk for infection. They would have been lesser evils if we would have had the blessing of "work from home" but being around the hospital setup makes us susceptible to infection.
- Beneath the Apron we are all Mortals: I have heard of doctors who relished the feeling of being sought by Critical patients and rejoiced to see the rush of patients at their clinic. But we should accept that we are not immortals. We may be great practitioners but we still have to take care of us.
- Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old: Inspite of taking all the care if you feel a bit low, don’t ignore it. We are in the habit of overlooking the trivial symptoms and realize only when we have high grade fever or prostration. Take some time to observe and check your vitals; you can even pay visit to a colleague for consultation. It will not hurt you but ignoring the early signs can affect you and those around. So be on a look out. And most importantly don’t delay hospital admission if there is a need.
- How often have we adopted preventive measures? This is for real but most of us give counseling on using Preventive Homeopathic medicines, doing Yoga, eating healthy balanced diet, adopting immunity booster life style. But we ourselves ignore its importance. Our body is our only house so by taking care of it we can remain in "Safe Zone". So practice what you preach.
We may be COVID WARRIORS but for the SARS-COV-2 virus we are just another host. We may have queued up patients but we are indispensable only for our family and children.
So it may seem selfish but it is wise decision to Look before you Leap; practice but remain in Safe zone. By adopting simple measures such as healthy life style, preventive medicines, proper sanitization and protection measures and just a little awareness can help us to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Proper Preparedness Prevents Poor Performance.
Good Luck to all. Take Care.