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Muslim doctors in Mumbai battle stress, stigma to fight COVID-19

By Aparajita Ghosh, TwoCircles.net

 Mumbai: “We had a feeling of being invincible, but the magnitude of disease sank and the fear suddenly crept in”, said Dr Sajid Qureshi of Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai. 

 “Suddenly the worst affected south of Mumbai is getting better and the virus is migrating to the north. It is difficult to say, the magic of complete disappearance will happen,” he added.

 India became the third worst-hit country overtaking Russia with the largest spike in cases on Thursday. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the official medicine for COVID-19 will be launched on August 15 to curb the surging cases in India.

 With the state-run hospitals converting into COVID-19 wards to fight the novel coronavirus, the health authorities are on toes around the clock.

Dr Shakeel Shamsi owns a private clinic in Belapur and offers 24 hours’ services to COVID-19 patients. Since the spread of the virus in Mumbai, he has been treating patients with all required precautions and sanitization. 

 We doctors are just like soldiers, offering our services without fearing the consequences,” he said.

 The health authorities are primarily using few antiviral medicines that are shown to have helped COVID-19 patients to recover. However, the lack of stock in the market is causing panic among civilians. 

 The growing speed of transmission has escalated the risks for healthcare workers.  

 “While at home, I stay away from kids without making them realize, so they don’t get upset,” said Dr Qureshi.

 Due to unprecedented emergency, the hospitals are swamped with patients, some symptomatic and some asymptomatic. 

 The health care turned COVID Centre in Govandi witnessed high rates of COVID-19 cases in the beginning and due to this, fewer health workers were willing to offer services out of fear.

 Dr Asif Khan, who currently works in the COVID-19 ward of the hospital, has rotational shifts of 6 hours and used to live in a hostel provided by the hospital as a precaution. “My job is risky, but I have to work as a doctor and I cannot stay home,” he said.

 Dr Imran Ali, an orthopaedic surgeon offers his 24 hours of service to Apollo hospital and also runs his own clinic in Andheri West of north Mumbai. “I don’t operate (fractures or dislocations) my patients until I get their COVID-19 reports,” he said.

 Only after seeing an exponential rise in cases we started looking for all recognized publications regarding the disease to get more possible information”, he added.

 The unplanned outbreak of the coronavirus has brought uncertainty and a crisis situation is witnessed worldwide. The health workers working for long hours in PPE kits and masks treating COVID-19 patients with experimental drugs against the airborne transmission of the disease have caused anxiety. 

 It has taken a toll on my mental health because I’m more concerned for my family but I still care for my patients. I’m still undecided and constantly fighting battles between these two”, said Dr Qureshi.

 Amid the rising cases, the doctors believe that the cases will go down in the coming days. “We might see some decline in cases but eradication seems questionable,” said Dr Imran Ali. 

 “Maybe the vaccines (to prevent) and potent specific antivirals (to treat) will cause a difference, but it’s a long shot”, he added.

 Dr Qureshi said, “My faith was never targeted, but many of my friends suffered. Apart from religion, they were asked to stay safe since they were treating patients including that of the Muslim community because they might spread the virus in the society”.

 Post the Tablighi Jamaat event held in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz, the discrimination against the Muslim community was on the rise, causing communal tensions. 

 “I did not face such discrimination though I see more non-Muslim patients. They didn’t speak ill of me. Everyone said the same that this is politics”, said Dr Shamsi.