We Clapped For Them During Janata Curfew. But What Do India’s Doctors and Medical Staff Really Need?


We Clapped For Them During Janata Curfew. But What Do India’s Doctors and Medical Staff Really Need?

Illustration: Aishwarya Nayak

The country came out in support of the tireless work put in by our doctors on Sunday evening, gathering at their windows to pay their respects with resounding applause. At 5 pm the noise was deafening, especially considering it came on an otherwise quiet day.

Doctors, and other medical and sanitation staff have been at the frontlines of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic for weeks now, putting their lives on hold to start 24×7 helplines and offer videos that help curb misinformation doing the rounds. So how have they responded to this call for a janata curfew and the show of support?

Several doctors and nurses took to social media after the janata curfew to reinforce the message as earlier, “We stayed in hospital for you, so you should stay indoors for us”.

Others appreciated the call to stay in for a day, but urged Indians to continue the self-quarantine for a little longer.

“India is doing a much better job of starting to stop it at the right time,” an ENT surgeon from Bengal was reported as saying by News18. “It’ll require 2-3 weeks of people staying away, till the ones confirmed with the disease are treated, then it doesn’t have to be such a severe measure.”

Meanwhile, a few took to Twitter to demand more than this symbolic display. Aditi Rana tweeted: “I’m an intern in a government hospital in Maharashtra & in my hospital we have to try really hard to find even a basic mask to wear, other stuff like gloves, sanitizers are nowhere to be found while we need these the most in these times when many Corona suspects who complain of symptoms like cough, fever & have a travel history regularly come to our hospital. We’re daily exposed to so many people & we feel scared, we still go to the hospital. The hospital should be regularly cleaned thoroughly, every person walking in should be compulsory made to protect yourself on your own. Basically no help was given, we are left on our own. I just feel if in a developed country like Italy where doctors are properly protected, they’re so getting infected, where does India stand?”

Another user, Zeeshan Mhaskar, said that 90% of the ventilators in my hospital were occupied, even without any confirmed COVID-19 cases.

This user, a government surgeon expressed her fears that she might already have been exposed to the virus – and had no way of knowing.

A document has also been doing the rounds, apparently signed by AIIMS residents, which claims that a few hospitals have been running short of safety equipment.

A petition to this regard was also filed in the Supreme Court this morning.

“While clapping, banging utensils or ringing bells to express gratitude to those providing essential services, particularly medical professionals, at 5 pm on Janata Curfew day is an acknowledgement, the same is not adequate as the government of India has even failed to provide the basic protective gears to the medical professionals despite such request being made over a month ago after outbreak of the Coronavirus,” the petition says.

Meanwhile, the Times of India carried a report claiming that there was a shortage of protective equipment because, “Indian manufacturers don’t know what to produce in the absence of health ministry specifications”. The same article claims this shortage has been one of the reasons for infections among healthcare workers, not just in India, but across the world.

So even though the janata curfew seems to have done enough to lift the spirits of the rest of us, the way the next few weeks are handled will be crucial for the doctors of this country. Let’s hope they continue to feel encouraged.