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National

Doctors treating Covid patients tread a fine line between professional and personal lives

July 01, 2020 06:35 AM

COURTESY HT  JULY1

Doctors treating Covid patients tread a fine line between professional and personal lives
Sadia Akhtar

sadia.akhtar@htlive.com

Gurugram : The last time Dr Sushila Kataria had a proper sit-down meal with her family was in February this year.

Kataria, a frontline Covid-19 doctor and head of internal medicine, Medanta Hospital, has been staying in a separate room in her house and isolating herself ever since cases of coronavirus started emerging in the city. “I live in a separate room with a different entry and exit. My children have their own rooms. I don’t go to their rooms and even avoid touching common surfaces, such as door knobs. My children and husband eat together, while I eat by myself. While we are living under the same roof, it’s almost like to living in different houses,” said Kataria.

Even after four months of living with the virus, doctors like Kataria continue to miss their lives before the pandemic took over. They live with an overwhelming sense of fear about contracting the virus and spreading it further among their family members. Juggling medical responsibilities and their chores at home was no mean task, most said.

On National Doctor’s day, Hindustan Times spoke to doctors at the frontlines of the coronavirus health crisis who shared how they were treading a fine line while juggling professional duties with family responsibilities.

Dr Manoj Goel, director, pulmonology, at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, said that both work and life for the past four months have revolved around coronavirus. With an extension of working hours and off duty hours being dedicated to monitoring patients, the virus had upended life like never before.

In the initial months of the pandemic, Goel stayed at the hospital for two weeks straight, without seeing his family . During this period, he only managed to call them up occasionally to check on their well being. “I used to call them whenever I got time.Now, my family understands that this situation demands my presence much more,” Goel.

He said that while the family was complying with physical distancing norms without any compromises, the real challenge was getting used to living with the virus at all times. “Work continues even after I return from the hospital. There is no time for entertainment or recreational activities with the family. Patient’s safety and other concerns keep us engaged all the time. My son who studies in the USA is currently at home but we don’t get the chance to spend time together,” said Goel.

Dr Naveen Kumar, nodal officer and in-charge of the Covid-isolation ward at the Civil Hospital, said that staying away from family in the initial months of the pandemic was tough.

For one-and-a-half months, Kumar stayed away from family in a government-provided accommodation. During this duration, he relied on video calls to stay in touch with his wife and 14-year-old son. “Video calls helped a lot during that time. Occasionally, I would stand below my house and speak to my son through the balcony,” said Kumar, who is back home and is adopting strict physical distancing measures.

“I am among those doctors who have the maximum exposure with patients. There is always a fear that one might end up infecting someone else. I sanitise myself before entering the house. The shoes, clothes, everything is changed before I enter. I make sure that no one else uses the car that I travel in,” said Kumar. “We need to take care of the patients, ourselves, and by extension our families. One can never know when we might contract the virus,” said Kumar. “The virus has changed everything. I talk to my son, but avoid playing hanging out or doing activities with him that involve physical contact. This new distanced-reality is here to stay for now,” said Kumar.

Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer, Gurugram, said that the administration was providing accommodation to healthcare workers, who could opt for the facility if they had concerns about spreading the virus to others. Yadav said frequent sanitisation of hospital premises was being carried out and doctors have been provided with protective gear

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