- Survey shows anxiety among 21.1% physicians, 06.0% medical staffers
- Eighteen percent doctors, 6.8% healthcare professionals reported depression
- Medical professionals at Covid treating hospitals also report sleep disorder
- They say isolation, workload and death of their fellows create mental pressure
- Prompt steps to tackle the issue stressed, doctors say mental ailments may affect services
A recent study shows that many doctors and nurses are suffering from covid combat fatigues – mainly anxiety, sleep disorder and depression.
According to the research conducted by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) mental health department, the rate of such mental illnesses is higher among the doctors compared to the nurses and ward boys.
The research titled "Mental Health Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Health Care Professionals in Bangladesh: A cross Sectional Study" conducted a survey on 479 healthcare professionals – 366 doctors and 113 other medical staffers such as nurses, ward boys and lab technicians at Covid dedicated health facilities – from May to December 2020.
The survey found 21.1% of the physicians and 06.0% of the medical staffers had anxiety while 18% of the doctors and 6.8% of the allied healthcare professionals had been suffering from depression.
In the latest national mental health survey in 2018-2019, the depression rate among medical personnel was 6.7% while 4.5% of them reported having anxiety.
5.9% reports Covid insomnia
A notable finding of the research is that 5.9% of the healthcare providers who have been treating coronavirus patients reported sleep disorder. This rate among the doctors was only 0.9% in the pre-pandemic period.
The research picked the study sample randomly ranging from specialised coronavirus treatment facilities to thana level health complexes.
According to the study, doctors working in tertiary care Covid hospitals had much less anxiety than those who were working in the primary healthcare facilities in rural areas of the country.
Isolation, workload and deaths – enemies on the frontlines
The Business Standard talked to a number of physicians who have been treating Covid-19 patients since the outbreak in Bangladesh in March, 2020.
They said their duties isolate them from the friends and families, and infection fear constantly haunts them. Even after maintaining isolation from the family and complying with precautionary measures, a huge number of their colleagues got infected and some had died of Covid-19.
They said the uncertainty and inhumane workload result in such mental illnesses.
"The quarantine period after duty-days makes many doctors feel uncomfortable," said Dr Shoman Aniruddha, an anesthesiologist at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Mugda General Hospital.
"Besides, the health workers worry about their future and possibility of shuttling the virus from hospital to home," said Dr Shoman, who has been working at the hospital since it began Covid-19 treatment in mid-April last year.
The physician said he himself has developed sleep disorder recently. "Rewardless efforts sometimes will make you depressed. We saw many doctors died after getting infected by the patients while only one of them has received government compensation. These often make us disappointed," he added.
In Bangladesh, 127 doctors have died of Covid-19 so far since March last year.
Doctors' ailments may affect the services
"There should be appropriate and prompt measures to bring out medical personnel from the mental crisis. Otherwise, their ailments may affect the medical services," Dr Mohammad Shamsul Ahsan, BSMMU associate professor and principal investigator of the study, told The Business Standard.
He urged the government to boost investments in mental health.
Shamsul Ahsan said depression and anxiety is three times higher among health workers with diabetes, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
According to the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a "high prevalence" of mental distress across the globe due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially among healthcare workers.
Last year, WHO said the impact of the pandemic on people's mental health is already extremely concerning due to social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members.