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“Ensure Safety Of Healthcare Workers, You Can ‘Thank’ Us Later”: A Medical Intern

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.
Indian Air Force helicopter showering flower petals at Sawai Mansingh Hospital on Sunday, 3 May. Photo: Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto / Getty Images

India had its first case of Coronavirus sometime around the end of January 2020, and since then, the number of cases has multiplied at an unexpected and unprecedented rate. The government, just like in other instances, has failed to act properly and immediately. Instead of helping the medical professionals and health care workers with the necessary protective measures and other equipment, it has put up a show of bizarre activities, ranging from banging utensils to showering flowers.

Are the medical professionals enjoying the show, especially when they cannot save themselves, let alone saving other people?

Here is a first-hand narrative of a medical intern at Medical College and Hospital Kolkata (MCK) who chooses to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

Presently, Medical College Kolkata is a dedicated COVID-19 treatment centre and is admitting only COVID-positive patients.

A few weeks back, the situation was worse. N-95 masks were not being provided to interns or Post-Graduate Teachers (PGTs). Proper protocols for screening suspected COVID-positive people were not being followed, in spite of asking the Medical Superintendent-cum-Vice-Principal (MSVP) to look into the matter more than once. The COVID-suspected people and the general patients were being treated in the same Emergency Room with only a screen separating them. Later, we interns drew up protocols ourselves after a lot of research, and the MSVP approved that.

The situation worsened when one patient in the Obstetric department and another patient in the Medicine Acute Female ward tested positive (due to lack of screening and patients withholding information). The interns and Post-Graduate Teachers who came in contact with them demanded immediate testing, which was initially denied by the administration. Later, after visiting them regularly, we managed to acquire the quarantine and testing facilities.

By then, many interns and PGTs tested positive. Around 40 health care workers tested positive, and this didn’t make it’s way to the news cycle and was barely reported on. Many of them have also been discharged by now.

The authority is still not segregating the severe ones from the mild/asymptomatic ones, which is why initially, some of the patients tested negative once and positive later, which means they were and are getting infected. One intern tested negative twice and then positive twice. It took them quite a lot of days to heal properly. Therefore, segregation is very much needed.

The condition has improved and presently, Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, is functioning as a COVID-centre and there is no dearth of PPE kits.”

Representational image. Indian doctors wait in an area set aside for possible COVID-19 patients at a free screening camp at a government run homeopathic hospital in New Delhi, India, Friday, March 13, 2020. The camp is part of the government’s surveillance for fever and other symptoms related to the coronavirus. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

On asked what they think of the Government’s decision to shower flowers, light candles, and bang utensils as a way to thank the frontline warriors, this is what the medical intern said:

I personally feel they should be more worried about our protection. Once they have done that, these are definitely a pleasing gesture. THEY ( THE GOVERNMENT) SHOULD ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE HEALTHCARE WORKERS FIRST AND THEY CAN THANK US LATER

The intern also has a short message for the government(s), both central and state. That although safety measures have been taken and the condition seems to be much better, what needs to be done is proper testing. It’s not as important to focus on how many are contracting it as it is to test them and isolate them properly. The lockdown should continue religiously until the number of cases reduces to less than a quarter of what it is now and that the government needs to make sure that people who are the worst sufferers of the countrywide lockdown have access to basic necessities.

Representational image. Are the medical professionals enjoying the show, especially when they cannot save themselves, let alone saving other people?

All we can hope for now is that the Governments (both Central and State) act more responsibly and sensibly. After all, if we fail to ensure proper protective measure for our protectors, who will protect us?

Featured image for representation only.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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