COVID-19 AND HEALTH WORKERS
Authored By Siddharth Punj
Keywords: Covid-19; Healthcare;
With the whole world seized by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and the tally has been risen up to more than 22 million cases worldwide and 3.2 million in India it is a situation like turmoil for many of us and we are all asking the same question, when it will end ? It has been six months since our country had reported its first case in January 2020 and from then onwards we are fighting this epidemic day and night. The central and state governments of our country had done active and efficient endeavors to control the Covid-19 spread but yet we are at 3rd positions in the world tally of Covid-19 cases.
We all are facing some or more problems due to this pandemic but a section of the society for whom this pandemic is most stressful and challenging is the healthcare workers. They are working arduously every day for treating the ill with the great risk of getting infected themselves or potentially exposing their families to the corona virus. Even the apex court had also in this regard asked the central govt. to ensure safety of the doctors and medical staff.
The healthcare workers or the “Corona Warriors” are the front line warriors who are working tremendously day and night in fighting this virus on behalf of humanity. Reports have shown that the some of the medical staff are working 12 to 14 hours a day fighting this pandemic dealing with extreme mental and physical burden.
The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to put medical staff and professionals throughout the world in a bizarre and challenging situation. They had to make hard decisions which not only affect the patients but also their own mental health. A report came from Italy which stated that here the medical staff had to decide to which patient the critically important medical facilities like ventilators and beds in intensive care should be provided. They were making those decisions on the basis of chances of survival. Imagine the amount of mental pressure these healthcare professionals had to bear while making such decision amid this crisis like situation.
Despite of these mental and physical pressures the healthcare workers and medical staff are also facing social stigma, discrimination and violence by their own people. This stigma and discrimination arises due to fear of getting infected. These workers are facing complications like evictions from their apartments, ostracism and being shunned by other people. Some of these medical staff also faced violence which negatively impacts their mental health. This psychological dilemma in return could lead to degradation of their decision making capability which not only affect their mental health but also worsens the handling of the ongoing epidemic disaster.
Even Union health minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan have directed all top medical institutions to spread awareness about eradicating any social stigma related to healthcare workers.The WHO had also shown concern about the healthcare staff on World Day for Safety and Health at work by appealing to the global community about taking critical measures to ensure safety and security and to provide them with decent working conditions.
THE EPIDEMIC DISEASES (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE 2020
The president of India with the virtue of powers conferred by Article 123 clause (1) of the Constitution on 22nd April 2020 introduced The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 which amends the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897. The primary objective of the 2020 ordinance is to protect the medical staff and healthcare personnel.
The ordinance inserts section 1A in the 1897 Act which defines ‘acts of violence’ committed against any medical staff or healthcare worker in the pandemic situation. These ‘acts of violence’ includes harassment, causing hurt or injury, preventing the medical staff from performing their duties etc.
The ordinance also prohibits such ’acts of violence’ and penalizes them with an imprisonment which may be elongated to 7 years and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh.
PUBLIC HEALTH BILL, 2017
The govt. of India introduced in 2017 the Public health (Prevention, Control, and Management of Epidemics, Bio-terrorism and Disasters) Bill, 2017 which prevents and eradicates the proliferation of any contagious disease which could cause epidemic situation in the country. The bill was primed by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). This bill repeals the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897.
The bill authorizes state government to take necessary steps to prevent and eradicate any spread of disease which could lead to pandemic situation. The necessary steps include isolation of persons infected to such diseases; seizure of any product which contains or transmits any infected substance. The bill also prevents any violence or attack on medical staff with a fine and imprisonment up to 7 years.
Nobody knows when this pandemic situation will end. Various countries are trying and working arduously in inventing the vaccine of Covid-19 but till then the fight is still on the medical staff and personnel are our frontline soldiers. These violent attacks, discrimination and what not affects the medical personnel mentally as well as physically but govt. and our own attempts can help in preventing these corona warriors so that they could discharge their duty after all they are the ones putting their life at jeopardy in eradicating this disease.
These are difficult times and there is a prerequisite need to take necessary steps to ensure safety of the healthcare workers and medical staff because we need them, today, tomorrow and for the next hundreds of years we always need them.
 https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/who-gets-hospital-bed/607807/  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/biggest-challenge-is-fighting-stigma-harsh-vardhan/story-iRCLKihLKBY3ZYuCEiuEXM.html  No. 5 of 2020.  See Article 123 of the Constitution of India  No. 3 of 1897  See section 1A of the The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020