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Opinion: Health Care Workers Are Like Gods, Probably Superior

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Author’s Note: One of my close friends commented on one of my previous articles– “I guess man must have chosen arrogance earlier.” All I could reply was, “Yes, when he created God.”

A few years ago, I had read this article where someone asked the anthropologist Margaret Mead what she considered to be the first evidence of civilization. Her answer was a human thigh bone with a healed fracture found in an archaeological site. It was neither a weapon nor a religious artefact. She suggested that the first indication of civilization is to care for someone who is broken and is in need, over a period of time. But of course, health care workers (HCWs) do not believe in all this humbug.

Being a doctor is about power, or so has been etched on our minds since childhood. Let us call it a typical Indian middle-class childhood. Being a doctor is about fame, position, money, and most importantly, power. A person comes to you at his most vulnerable time, seeking help from you, and providing payment in return. Is this not limitless power? Being a nurse is being one step better (or worse). They will be with you at your birth, and probably at your death. They will care for you and clean after you. You are at their mercy for every fluid that may go in or out of your body. Is this not power?

Are you aware who else has such power? Of course, God. We go to a religious place, seek help, and pay him in one or more of the multiple ways (if you are offended by this, the word I really wanted to use was ‘bribe’). So, am I suggesting that all these people who are at this very moment working incessantly for the health of people and giving hope to them, keeping none for themselves, are similar to God? No, I am actually suggesting that they are superior to him. Some might say that this is a God complex, deep-rooted in the psyche of a health care worker, but I don’t think it is.

Healthcare workers being blamed for not providing beds, ventilators, oxygen, medication, and vaccines is like blaming God for temple mismanagement. Representational Image.

We routinely come across news about temples being vandalized and mosques being demolished (just another day in the life of a democracy). I wholeheartedly believe that gods reside in these places (this is sarcasm, everyone knows that God lives in heaven, beyond the clouds, in the stratosphere). When their houses are demolished, do they linger around? Do they turn up for work the next day? Where do we find them otherwise? Do we then turn to other praying places, as people defect to other political parties?

Just to digress, when something goes wrong with you, are you able to find the political leaders whose devotee you are? Trust me you will find an HCW, and that’s the problem. They are gods you can see, touch, and therefore, they are gods you can make bleed. This is why they are easy targets. They are gods who cry, complain, and then return to work the next day. Why? Is this about money or power?

People, in general, do not know how many hours of duties HCWs put in and how much an average nurse earns. Some might argue that they chose the profession. Yes, they did, but they did not sign for the physical, mental, and emotional abuse.

HCWs being blamed for not providing beds, ventilators, oxygen, medication, and vaccines is like blaming God for the poor lighting in a religious place, no nice incense, and no sweet prasad. Trust me, no doctor hoards ventilators at home so that he can use it when the air conditioner breaks down, no pharmacist stocks medicines in his closet because they are his favourite chewing gum. Some might argue that there are some rotten apples, and I agree with them. There have been such dirty people even in the pantheons of gods across all religions and across all centuries.

Unlike God who wants his devotees to campaign to raise money so that he could have a grand house in a specific city, what are these HCWs asking for? More hospitals so that patients do not have to sleep on floors while being treated, more appointments of doctors, nurses amongst others so that the HCW: patient ratio is not skewed. They demand more money to be invested, not for them, but for the same ventilators, vaccines, and medication.

One thing which I surely must appreciate is that Gods, in spite of standing or sitting in the same position forever and listening to the bickering of their devotees, never look tired or exhausted. Have you looked at an HCW after a 24-hour shift with a mask and the PPE kits? If you have seen one and felt nothing, don’t worry, there are millions like you. And if you have not seen one yet, in person or on the media, I think you reside in an alternate universe. Amidst this chaos, deprivation, and disrespect, these HCWs are losing something more valuable.

Even Superman mentioned that in his world ‘S’ stood for hope. In our world, ‘S’ is for superheroes; it also stands for science. It may also stand for soul, spirit, strength, and support. At this moment, the HCWs are losing that one thing they are best at- giving people hope. Last week, a very dedicated colleague, a doctor working in rural areas, treating patients for free if necessary, procuring their medication himself, tried to commit suicide out of frustration. Maybe he was depressed because he was unable to accept his inability to help more people in the manner he wished. He felt that nothing else mattered. He is a god this world needs but unfortunately does not deserve.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

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.

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