IT HAS been almost a year since Dr Parul Kadian, an MBBS intern with GMCH-32 Chandigarh, went home to her parents in Rohtak, four hours away, and Diwali is going to be no different.
While the entire country celebrates the festival of lights on Saturday, medical professionals, who are battling a raging pandemic, will continue to be on duty, away from their families.
When Parul began her internship in January, little did she know that she would soon be battling such an unprecedented situation. “I used to live with my relatives in Chandigarh, but once Covid-19 struck, I shifted to the hostel. Many others, even those with families in the city, did the same,” she says.
A member of the contact tracing team of GMCH, Parul decided to visit her relatives on the eve of Diwali, but is now rethinking her decision. She will spend Diwali on Covid tracing duty. “My duty should end around 7 pm. I will just head to my room and make a video call to my parents. It has been very difficult for them as well.”
Public still unfazed, continue to break rules
What gives her the jitters is the rush of people on the streets, and complete disregard for Covid protocol. “When lockdown was initiated, I remember walking down a desolate street to the hospital. It was sad but it gave me hope. Now as the pandemic rages like a fire, I see people mingling without masks, as if nothing happened. I shudder to think that each one of these persons could land up in the hospital under my care,” she says.
Even as most residents stayed on in hostels, some went home despite the shadow of Covid. Rajat Jain, another intern at GMCH-32, reached home Wednesday. “I had to make a number of adjustments to get leave since we have to ensure someone is on duty in our place. I know Covid lingers but my family was so happy to see me after so long that it seems worth it.”
Several others who could not go home were visited by their parents, while few others had a day out.
“I had not been home since Holi. My parents longed to see me. So they came all the way from Delhi to take me out for a meal. They could not have left the house alone on Diwali so they returned the same day,” says a junior resident working at PGI, who didn’t want to be named.
Diwali for doctors has always been hectic, says Dr Sandeep Singh, president of the Resident Doctors Association of GMCH. “The inflow of patients, especially with complaints of trauma, burn injuries and eye problems, increases. All junior residents in these departments have always worked on Diwali,” he adds.
Staying away from home
While several worked through Diwali previously as well, this is the first time, says Sandeep, that even students from outside who would have gotten leave to go back home, volunteered to work this year. “Most are apprehensive of visiting their aging parents and grandparents. Since they will be here only, all of them have opted to work.”
Those posted on Covid duty did not even have an option to leave. Posted at the orthopedics OT, Sandeep, a resident of Chandigarh, hopes to reach home in time after his shift to share a meal with his family on the night of the festival. “I have been staying on a separate floor to avoid contact with my family, especially my grandparents. I am happy to work throughout the day, but hope to reach home in time to share a meal with them,” he says. Had it not been for Covid, all his outstation friends would have also been invited to spend Diwali with his family.
At the frontline, it has been eight months since doctors have been functioning on hope amid fears, as they long to be reunited with their families. While several have already tested positive despite taking all precautions, many others have even succumbed to the disease across the country.
At Panchkula Civil Hospital, Dr Iti Sharma will be taking Covid samples throughout the day. “Diwali will be a dull affair for doctors throughout the country, whether on or off duty. Our two children, though very young, too have realised that there will be no big celebrations this time. We hope to enjoy a quiet meal, that is all,” says her husband Dr M P Sharma, head of the psychiatry ward at the hospital. But at the hospital, Sharma has planned a small party at the psychiatry ward this Diwali.
On duty, even in isolation
Director of Health, Punjab, Dr Manjeet Singh, stresses that being a health worker has never been this tough. “Even though doctors always have to be on their toes, the pandemic has been particularly rough on them. It’s the most difficult Diwali for us. Even doctors who have been affected with Covid have been working. Doctors in isolation have also been tasked with jobs of contact tracing et al which may be done from home. All of us doctors, will burn the midnight oil this Diwali.”
The director rued that people though seem unfazed.
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