healthcare workers

Healthcare workers are one of the frontline warriors working to help society during the COVID-19 pandemic. But many of them are not working in the best of conditions themselves. Let’s have a look at some of the challenges they are facing at this time.

PPE and Health Risks

Lack of access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) forced several healthcare workers to use motorcycle helmets, surgical masks, scarves, raincoats etc. to cover themselves. However these are extremely inadequate and there is a dire need for fully-covering PPE given that healthcare workers have to deal with many active COVID cases and are in close proximity to patients. Already, 1 in every 15 cases of COVID-19 is a healthcare worker. They cannot afford to keep working without proper equipment and be further vulnerable to the disease.

The mental health of healthcare workers is also an area of concern. Wherever PPE is available, doctors stay in it for continuous 6-8 hours, during which it is difficult to eat, drink water, or even urinate. This problem is exacerbated for menstruating healthcare workers. They cannot get out of their PPE in order to protect themselves from contracting infection, making it impossible for them to periodically change their menstrual hygiene products. 

Also read: ASHA Workers’ Protest: How Primary Health Workers Continue To Be Denied Justice

Social Ostracisation

Healthcare workers in India are also facing social ostracisation and harassment by others who are afraid of contracting the virus from them. They have been forced to evict homes, face abuse from neighbours, and are even violently attacked. The combined position of having a lack of PPE and being exposed to virus carrying patients adds to the stigma people have against healthcare workers. 

What Has the Government Done About This?

The government passed a “zero-tolerance” ordinance making violence against healthcare workers punishable with a fine and a jail sentence. This seems like a good initiative, except the state machinery itself did not receive the memo.

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