Doctors, others continue to face vigilantism

Health minister express regret, concern

geetanjali

Geetanjali Minhas | March 27, 2020 | Mumbai


#health ministry   #mumbai   #maharashtra   #lockdown   #healthcare   #epidemic   #coronavirus   #COVID-19   #Dr Harsh Vardhan  
Health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan during his daily Covid-19 situation update meeting in Delhi on Thursday (Image courtesy @DrHarshVardhan)
Health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan during his daily Covid-19 situation update meeting in Delhi on Thursday (Image courtesy @DrHarshVardhan)

Scare following the outbreak of Covid-19 has led some people to turn to vigilantism, harassing people at the frontline of fighting the disease and keeping the country running amid the lockdown.

Earlier this week, the medical associations had made representations before home minister Amit Shah, who had assured them of help. On Thursday, health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, himself a renowned doctor, expressed regret and concern at continued harassment faced by doctors and paramedics, apart from others who keep essential services on.

In Mumbai, there are reports that healthcare providers including doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff across specializations who are working to save lives are being harassed and ostracised in their neighbourhoods. Many of these frontline workers are facing resistance from the places they live in and finding difficult to go to work.

“Getting to work has become very difficult. The community has become the decider of what you can do. If my assistant and nurse are not there I cannot do my work,” said obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Nozer Sheriar one of whose staff members was warned by neighbours against going to work or face eviction from home along with his family. “Despite having an authority letter that he needs to go to the hospital the local vigilante and community in their jingoism told him that he should not go to work and if he does, he will be thrown out along with his family. A handful of people are deciding for everyone and dictating what is the right way.”

Calling for a firm and effective implementation by the government to come out with a system specially at the local level where every essential services provider can register and get passes for movement and provision of services, Dr Sheriar says, “These are still early days but something needs to be done formally so medical professionals can do emergency work at least and which will have to be defined. It has to be done at the local level and not the national level.”

With almost half the staff finding it difficult to come to work as things stand with minimal transport and as they live far away, he says even where some hospitals have provided their staff with rooms in their quarters, many of them are women who have responsibilities on both sides. “Very soon most hospitals will be mobilised into isolation and ICU centres,” says Sheriar.

Many doctors point out the irony that on Sunday, following prime minister Narendra Modi's appeal, people at large had banged plates and made noise to thank doctors and others who are helping the country fight the battle against virus, but now the same fighters are facing vigilantes in many cities.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Maharashtra government decided to allow grocery and medicine shops and other vendors of essential goods and services open round the clock, following reports of panic and difficulty in getting stocks and supplies.
 

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