Corona Corner

“Our work time often goes beyond 14 hours”

Medical intern Dr Shriya Mungi from Bhopal shares her story of working as a frontline Covid warrior

Bhopal: In March 2020, Dr Shriya Mungi was contemplating how she would desire to complete her medical training until next year.

And yet, at one of the biggest and overburdened government hospital in Madhya Pradesh’s state capital, she is the doctor who knows the Covid-19 patients who have higher respiratory symptoms, requires greater dependence on oxygen therapy. She has a deeper understanding of the use of experimental drugs with official approval on the patients who become critical.

But she never had thought that her internship was going to be like this.

After 4 and a half years of being a student, I was excited to be a doctor and help people. I always looked up to my family members who were in healthcare as role models and seeing them sacrifice most of their time for their jobs was something I aspired to,” she said by adding “But my internship started with the first wave of coronavirus hitting India hard. My first day was on 30th March 2020 and I remember being forced to join the medical college at home because I was stuck in my hometown.”

The next day Shriya was to assist the government in contact tracing and sampling. She became a part of the Government Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, Bhopal. 

Time spent with other government officials, police personnel in small by-lanes and thickly populated areas helped her to understand the mystic diversity of the city and enlightened her with government functioning.

“For the first time in my life I went to people’s houses to ask them questions, and it felt very invasive. I also realised that my city had a lot more diversity than I knew. The streets were completely deserted,” she said.

On the other side, several other things made her happy.

I was pleasantly surprised by the hospitality we were shown by others, who offered water and snacks, showed precise directions and lifts to find an address, she said by adding that “I was able to see the living conditions of many people, especially those at both extremes of society and it humbled me. I don’t think I would have been able to learn this aspect of society otherwise”.

However, during the pandemic time that system had long broken down, and even the interns have to sometimes act like on-duty doctors in the emergency room considered to be one of the most critical in the hospital.

“I think, most of us had devoted the first few months of our internships in the emergency and Covid special wards. That was the time when there was a shortage of PPE kits, masks and sanitizer liquids. But none of us made faces, raised voices. We all humbly accepted the challenge and performed our duties for hours and hours, days, weeks and months,” recalled Dr Astut Kurariya who worked as an intern at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College, Jabalpur. 

A popular reading is that most of the people in the State know that there aren’t enough beds in hospitals, not enough oxygen or ventilators and medicines to treat patients who arrive at the hospital’s front gates alive.

Actually, interns and doctors can be seen in the emergency room, where conditions are even more cramped. Here, patients and relatives crowd every available space. Many a time trolleys are close enough for patients to touch each other.

“Like us, our juniors too are wholeheartedly performing their duty. Due to rising cases, our work time often goes beyond 12 to 14 hours,” Dr Shankul Dwivedi, National Joint Secretary of Indian Medical Association Junior Doctors Network and national spokesperson of Federation of All India Medical Association said.

And under such circumstances and during pandemic times, the contribution of interns and junior doctor’s towards each one of us is beyond imagination.

However, Dr Sankul is quick to remind Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s unfulfilled promise which he has made last year when corona began to hit hard in the State.

“Doctors those who are treating COVID-19 patients, an amount of Rs 10 thousand will be given to them,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced in April 2020. 

In the current scenario, nearly 3,500 junior doctors working in six government medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh have resigned demanding an increase in the stipend and better medical facilities for their families amid Covid.

The doctors resigned after the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Thursday directed doctors to end their four-day strike, calling it “illegal”. Some of the other major demands include beds for junior doctors serving Covid patients be reserved for admission in health facility centre in case they are affected by coronavirus, 24 per cent hike in stipend and another 6 per cent annual hike in stipend and better medical facilities for their families amid Covid. 

Madhya Pradesh State Medical Education Minister Vishvas Sarang has said the government would accept their demands, but no written order has been issued.

Anup Dutta

is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bhopal. He reports on people, politics, policies, health, art and culture.

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