National Doctors’ Day: Medical fraternity gained first-hand experience during pandemic

Leading doctors share their experiences and learnings from the pandemic

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New Delhi: “When we think of frontline health care workers, we may think of doctors and nurses at hospitals, but independent family doctors are in that category, too. On this Doctor’s Day, I would want to extend my deepest gratitude to every doctor, nurse, and support staff member who works tirelessly to keep the country safe and disease-free, says Dr. Alok Roy, Chairman of Medica Group of Hospitals in his message on National Doctors’ Day.
“Every doctor, whether an independent family doctor or a hospital doctor, is society’s greatest gift, and it is our responsibility as responsible citizens to encourage, appreciate and support every healthcare professional for their tireless effort around the clock to save lives. Nobody on the front lines should be forgotten,” adds Dr Roy.
“My experience with COVID-19 has been a learning experience. It was the first time in recent history that the entire fraternity was battling one single challenge. There were challenging times when we could not help patients recover,” says Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Consultant & Head Critical Care, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim-A Fortis Associate.
Dr Saseedharan adds further: “During this duration, experiments on various drugs were conducted, even when the evidence was not optimum to treat Covid. The medical fraternity gained first-hand experience treating patients and  weighed the pros and cons of treatment methods while taking calculated risks. Further, regarding research, several organizations and communities worked extremely hard to develop evidence and drugs to support the global community in fighting against the virus.”
“The research that we conducted for COVID was extremely exhaustive but yielded excellent results, and we managed to save multiple lives through it. Experts and researchers spend countless hours beside the patient trying to understand pathology, the use of a ventilator and various treatment methods to understand the best course of therapy. We also spent a lot more time counselling the immediate relatives of these patients as they had no way to meet their loved ones in person. This was a very challenging time as we also had to attend the cremation of some patients as relatives were not allowed to participate in last rites due to safety protocol, Dr Saseedharan mentions.
On the future impact of the pandemic, Dr Saseedharan says: “COVID-19 will have long-term socioeconomic impacts on healthcare. The pandemic has had and is still leaving a profound effect on various individuals’ mental health and well-being. This will lead to a better emphasis on public health and focus on prevention of  infectious diseases in the coming days. Another significant impact of the pandemic is that point of care diagnostic like the RAT test is gaining prominence. People have understood the importance and gained trust for such technologies.”
As a clinician I witnessed the devastating effects of covid pandemic on patients and near and dear ones, says Dr. Zakia Khan, Senior Consultant-Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan.
“The healthcare providers faced challenges not just in India but in various parts of the world. The global excess death with Covid-19 was 14.9 million between January 2020 to December 2021 and this kept on repeating in multiple waves. Private and public sector delivered quality healthcare in terms of patient management and conducting vaccination drive in various parts of the country. All the elective procedures in the hospitals took a backseat and only emergency healthcare was delivered due to the situation. Pandemic also saw emergence of telemedicine playing and important role,” says Dr Khan.
“Vaccine industry too saw a boost and for the first time a new vaccine was developed and delivered in a record time. Industries were seen making masks, sanitizers with lot of innovations. Government has also increased budget for healthcare sector and is preparing for future disasters” adds Dr Khan.
On the future possibilities, Khan says: “Now in the new normal, the healthcare facilities have further advanced and are providing offline, teleconsultation  and online consultation for patients across the board. Though, some patients are still struggling with long Covid-19 symptoms and returning to work is difficult for many. However, the current wave so far has not impacted the healthcare sector. In short, we all fought as warriors. We lost some but eventually we are gradually coming back to normal.”
According to Dr Farah Ingale, Director-Internal Medicine, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, COVID-19 was a medical mystery for everyone in the healthcare sector.
“Pandemic proved to be quite challenging for everyone, whether they were dealing with diagnosis, investigations, or disease management. Since there was no definitive treatment or protocol process, experimental and repurposed drugs were used to treat patients. In this scenario, medicines that were effective one day could become ineffective the next day. However, soon guidelines were issued by healthcare associations , including WHO, CDC and ICMR, and this helped to tackle the disease more effectively,” says Ingale.
“Additionally, measures by the government, including lockdowns, were imposed, which, although containing the disease, negatively impacted the economy and livelihoods of people. In turn, this affected the mental morale of the people, and while it was not easy to treat them, hospital staff worldwide tried their best. Since they were on the frontline, they risked their lives to save those of their patients, and in the process, many hospital staff also lost their lives,” adds Ingale.
Ingale believes that the development of the vaccine in record time brought a lot of hope. “After a majority of population was vaccinated, lockdown rules were relaxed, and the pandemic became less threatening for everyone involved.”
“However, the pandemic is still not over, and it could worsen if a more virulent or infectious mutation occurs. The hospital staff are now more equipped to deal with COVID and are ready to deliver high levels of care to all patients. The pandemic years have been challenging, and while we saw so much fear, panic and hysteria, there were also so many episodes of kindness, empathy and compassion that stood out during these times,” he concludes.