Like Gupta, healthcare workers across the country are taking to social media to express their despair about the shortage of protective gear and the discrimination they have to face, even as they remain at the frontlines of India’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Is this our fault that we chose to work and study in Government of Chhattisgarh run Medical colleges?? As a doctor we are not given a mask and protective gear… Request a speedy redressal,” Dr Mainak Bardhan from Chhattisgarh had tweeted. “At the very least, as frontline workers, we expect N95 masks and protective gowns from the government. Instead, we are being asked why we need masks for asymptomatic cases,” says Bardhan, who is completing his internship at Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Memorial Hospital in Raipur. Bardhan says senior doctors have gone to the extent of asking him why he could not buy his own masks.
On Monday, ET reported that the textiles ministry, in its meeting, had acknowledged that there was a shortage of body coveralls and N-95 masks in the country. On Tuesday, government announced it would set aside ₹15,000 crore to purchase equipment necessary to fight Covid-19, such as ventillators, personal protective equipment and masks.
Others are using social media to expose the discrimination they are being subject to outside hospitals. In a widely shared Facebook post, a house surgeon in MGM Hospital in Warangal, Telangana said: “..many doctors in the city were asked to vacate their rented homes by their owners… one owner said that we were DIRTY… Did I study 14 hours a day for this?”
Social media users are lending a sympathetic ear to this anguish. After Dr Sanjibani Panigrahi tweeted that she was a government doctor being threatened by her housing society in Surat, she told ET her local MLA, Harsh Sanghavi, got in touch with her and assured her that he would help her. “He gave me the police commissioner’s number and told me that if anyone threatened or harassed me I could reach out to him,” says Panigrahi.
The desperate state of affairs is also inspiring people to try and crowd-fund the shortfall of safety equipment for healthcare workers, who are being compared to soldiers sent into battle without protection. This includes producer Manish Mundra, who had tweeted that he would be arranging for ventilators, pledging ₹3 crore for the cause and reaching out to domestic manufacturers. Crowdfunding platform Ketto had also tweeted that it could set up a fund-raiser to help raise money for protective gear and equipment necessary to tackle Covid-19.
Dr Ravi Wankhedkar, former president of Indian Medical Association, says that while the situation of doctors is bad because of the lack of sufficient masks and gowns, it is even worse for nurses, ward boys and ASHA workers, who have been deployed for contact tracing. “Clapping is very nice but (providing protective equipment) is what needs to be done — it’s more important,” says Dr Wankhedkar, referring to the prime minister’s call to citizens to show appreciation for doctors by applauding at 5 pm last Sunday.