Let us be Respectful to Frontline Warriors

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Published on July 1, 2020
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Pranab Kumar Panday:

Recently, I was taken aback by following the news that portrayed the killing of a doctor after being brutally beaten by a patient's relatives in Khulna on the allegation that he committed a mistake while undertaking a surgery that caused patient's death. The doctor was suffering from serious brain haemorrhage and was admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, he died a few days ago. It is a pathetic incident when the doctors are considered to be the frontline health care providers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We all know that doctors are like God during this pandemic; they can save the lives of thousands of patients who have been diagnosed with this deadly virus. Meanwhile, more than 40 doctors have died fromCOVID-19 infection while providing care to the infected people. Therefore, such an incident warrants hate from all sections of society.

There is a group of people in our country who seem to be critical about the role of doctors during the pandemic. But we must keep in mind that we did not take adequate security measures for them during the early days of COVID-19 spread across the country. We could not even provide them with the necessary equipment including quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPT), N-95 masks and other necessary equipment. We always wanted them to work as the frontline warriors against the deadly disease, without taking into account that they still have families who may remain worried for them. Since we did not feel for them, they were reluctant to put them in danger to treat COVID-19 patients without adequate protective measures. However, after the intervention of our Prime Minister the situation has improved quite significantly. Several thousand physicians and nurses are now working diligently to save the lives of people diagnosed with COVID-19

Health professionals are considered to be working in a noble profession. Whenever someone becomes a doctor, he or she requires taking an oath by agreeing to the fact that they would work for humanity. From this perspective, the doctors are in most cases like God without whose support many of us cannot even think of overcoming the trauma of COVID-19. Of course, many doctors lack professionalism and patriotism. Humanity comes second to them while money comes first. It is also true that the number of such doctors is not very high in our country. Meanwhile, we have seen many Facebook posts of many doctors who pretended to be the businessmen in their writings, as they had to invest their time and efforts to become a doctor. They do not want to put their lives at risk of COVID-19 infection coming in contact with the patients when they are being treated. These groups of doctors do not consider that they were taught in public medical colleges that are run by the revenue collected from the country's citizens. This does not mean that we should condemn the majority of the doctors who uphold the spirit of the noble profession.

Given the presence of these doctors on a limited scale, the majority of them are not only working day and night to help people in need but also are making them available via telemedicine to provide free care to the patients when we are advised to stay at home to contain the spread of COVID-19. Many of these doctors provide services without having to take their fees. However, I must be critical about the decision of doctors to avoid their private chambers from the early days of COVID-19 infection in Bangladesh. We all know that most patients in Bangladesh tend to go to doctors privately, as the situation of public hospitals is not as satisfactory as someone expects. The decision to avoid private chambers has put many patients at risk of their survival. Most importantly, patents who are suffering from other than COVID-19 are not being handled properly. We have seen many patients who have died without COVID-19 symptoms because they were unable to get them admitted to any hospital for treatment.

Despite having some criticisms about some of the doctors we cannot deny their contribution during this global pandemic as they are the great warriors who are working from the frontline. We have also seen the role of doctors during this pandemic in different countries. In most countries, these doctors and nurses did not even get spaces to sleep while serving the patients, as they were required to continuously work for several days without meeting their family members. We have seen them crying while they were speaking with their family members through the digital divide. This shows the professionalism of those physicians who sacrificed their lives for mankind.

In Bangladesh, thousands of doctors have agreed to risk their lives for the care of patients with COVID-19. Yet we must admit that we were not been able to provide them with the requisite medical equipment which could save them from being contaminated with COVID-19. Even when they were provided with required medical equipment, the quality of that equipment was found to be very low. Despite tirelessly attempts by Prime Minister to ensure their safety, some of the corrupt officials have made her job very difficult. There are claims that many of the suppliers have delivered lower quality marks, PPEs and other equipment making illegal business dealings with some of the responsible authorities in government.

Referring back to my earlier discussion about the death of the doctor in Khulna, I must demand that those criminals be punished. It is learned that the law enforcement agencies have arrested most of the criminals who are now under court trial. I firmly believe that the miscreants will be published through the legal process and the doctor's family members will get justice.

We must remember that this is not the time to make a squabble with each other. It is time to work collectively to overcome the pandemic. We have to accept the fact that the doctors are the only actors who can save us from this deadly disease. Besides that, the number of deaths and infections among the doctors and nurses might have instilled tension among the members of their family. Meanwhile, we have observed many cases in which doctors with COVID-19 infections were unable to get admitted to hospitals for treatment. The government must take proactive steps to save the lives of these frontline warriors. Therefore, we must respect these frontline warriors in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writer: Professor of Public Administration and an Additional Director of the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC), University of Rajshahi.