UPDATED: January 19, 2021 | 12:39 IST
The bigger battle in the year 2020 was fought in hospitals, where several frontline health workers lost their lives in the line of duty during the coronavirus pandemic. The lives lost by the Indian doctors were seven times more than the casualties in the Indian armed forces in 2020. At least 734 doctors died in their line of duty while 106 personnel of the security forces made supreme sacrifices in the last year.
“Covid-19 was a novel virus and a new evolving science; the doctors did not know how to tackle it. In addition, the unavailability of an adequate number of Personal protective equipment (PPE) kits made the doctors over-exposed to the infection, leading to a higher number of deaths,” Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, Former President of AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA), told the Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) of India Today.
At the beginning of the pandemic, doctors in India had to work for 14 days in the Covid ward, and later they were quarantined for the next 14 days, for their risk assessment and early diagnosis. However, this rule was gradually overlooked as the caseload surged, and the doctors got tested only after acquiring significant symptoms, Dr. Bhatti added, who is the National President of Progressive Medicos & Scientists Forum (PMSF).
While the infrastructure and policy gaps contributed to the misery of doctors, their own lifestyle diseases also made them more vulnerable to the novel virus.
Co-morbidity is one of the major reasons behind the high number of doctors’ deaths due to Covid-19, said Dr. Binay Sharma, Additional Chief Medical Officer, Muzaffarpur. Despite all the precautions, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and so on, made doctors more vulnerable to infections, he added.
In the war against Covid-19, doctors and other healthcare workers were the most vulnerable to the virus as they had to attend to different patients with different scales of infections.
However, their efforts have made India reach a decent position globally in terms of the number of active cases India had a little over two lakh active cases as of Monday. Meanwhile, India has a doctor-population ratio of 1:1343 as per the current population estimate of 135 crores, against the World Health Organization norms of 1:1000, the parliament papers revealed. The deaths of 734 doctors leave behind nearly 10 lakh unattended patients in the country.