At 5 pm on March 22, in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call, many Indians came out on their balconies to express their solidarity with doctors and public health workers battling on the frontlines to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, the same doctors who were being applauded for their work, have taken to social media to narrate how they are being harassed and discriminated against in their housing complexes or rented accommodations. One government doctor, for example, was asked by his housing complex to stay away since he was treating patients who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Others have been forced to vacate their rented accommodation, leaving them stranded with nothing but their luggage. By any measure, this sort of treatment meted out to doctors is unacceptable.
So many incidents are coming to light of sincere govt doctors who are now being threatened to enter their own homes! Please look seriously into this matter@narendramodi sir.
A govt doctor. pic.twitter.com/MmLHZejsjf
— Dr.Devashish (@DevPalkar) March 23, 2020
A doctor serving at a government hospital treating patients suspected of COVID-19 in Delhi confirmed this in an interview with The Better India on the condition of anonymity.
“I live with my family at a rented accommodation in a pretty well-off locality in South Delhi. The day before yesterday, when I was on duty, some residents began harassing my parents. Even though I have taken all possible precautions at the hospital, they began telling my parents not to step out for groceries and to convey a message to me that I should not come back to the locality until this epidemic subsides,” he said.
After listening to his parents’ ordeal, the doctor called the local police. Fortunately, they stepped in and issued a warning against residents engaging in such behaviour. “Thankfully, nothing happened to my family and I, but I have heard even worse accounts from doctors in other cities. We don’t deserve this sort of treatment,” he adds.
This was the same thing the Director of @AIIMSBhubaneswr was appealing to the Landlords & public the other day, not to harass the Resident Doctors.
— 🇮🇳 Dr D Datta 🇮🇳; MD (Anatomy) (@ddatta16) March 24, 2020
Speaking to The New Indian Express on the condition of anonymity, one junior doctor at Hyderabad’s MGM Hospital said, “They recognise us with our lab coats and stethoscopes. Many doctors have been asked to vacate their rented homes by their landlords as they believe that doctors staying at their houses may make them more susceptible to Covid-19. One (house)-owner even said we were dirty. They asked us to vacate without any notice. Most of the doctors are now on the streets and have nowhere to go.”
Consequently, authorities at the Central and State level took cognisance of these acts and have promised to take necessary penal action against those engaging in such behaviour.
Responding to this widespread harassment, the Resident Doctor’s Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences wrote a letter to the Union Home Minister requesting “appropriate action against the eviction of Healthcare Professionals from their homes and provision of transport facility.”
Even the Federation of Resident Doctors Association in Kolkata wrote a similar letter to the union health ministry expressing their concerns.
“India has just one doctor for 1,445 Indians”
Those working in the public health care sector, especially doctors, were overworked even before the COVID-19 epidemic struck India.
With the epidemic spreading its tentacles further, the strain on them has grown even further. Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in November 2019 that India has just one doctor for 1,445 Indians, which is much lower than the WHO’s prescribed norm of 1:1,000.
Moreover, these doctors, nurses and other medical staff are risking their lives every day in ensuring that the rest of us don’t fall prey to this epidemic. Let us not add to the pressure that they are already under. If the rest of us continue to exhibit such terrible behaviour, lest assured it will take a severe toll on their mental health as well.
The very least we can do is be thankful and not harass them.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)