Dr Moyeen Uddin, an assistant professor of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital, died of Covid-19 at Kurmitola General Hospital on April 15. He was the first doctor in Bangladesh to sacrifice his life in this ongoing fight against coronavirus.
The late Moyeen, soon after his symptoms were exposed, went into self-isolation. All of his family members and a few colleagues were tested afterwards, but none of them were positive.
Thus, Dr Moyeen, who dedicated his life at the service of his patients, didn't spread the contagious disease to anyone by dint of his timely self-isolation.
This is just an instance of how our frontline fighters are protecting us from coronavirus.
Likewise, their children and family members are also sacrificing a lot as they cannot be in touch with their loved ones. How difficult is it for a doctor who is also a mother when she has to stay away from her nursling baby for such a long time?
When our medical personnel are dedicating their lives at the frontline, we have come to learn that some house owners in various cities are dislodging them from their houses. They fear that our frontline fighters – who indeed are saviours of lives – will bring them coronavirus.
When our healthcare professionals are in such complicated junctures of their lives, many of us admire them on social media as our "heroes". But in practice, we too prefer to avoid them.
Consequently, the mental health of our medical professionals are now at risk.
A study published on March 23, 2020 in JAMA Network, a medical journal, found that among 1,257 healthcare workers working with Covid-19 patients in China, 50.4% reported symptoms of depression, 44.6% reported anxiety, 34% reported insomnia, and 71.5% reported distress.
Moreover, the rate of infection among healthcare workers in Bangladesh is higher than many other countries.
In Bangladesh, more than 440 medical personnel have tested positive for coronavirus till April 29, which is around six percent of total infections.
In addition, a few hundreds of healthcare professionals are in isolation. They will begin serving patients once again only if they do not test positive for coronavirus.
According to a DGHS bulletin in 2018, Bangladesh has total 93,358 registered doctors, which is not a big number for a country of 160 million people.
As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, ample care is required for our frontline healthcare workers.
Why are health professionals getting infected at such an alarming rate?
Firstly, many of them did not get Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Some of them received the PPE, but they are of low quality.
Secondly, shortage of manpower at service, unavailability of food at work, and lack of proper training about the usage and disposal of PPE are also at work here.
Medical professionals come in contact with many people every day. Many patients move around them - who have no apparent symptoms of coronavirus - but they are actually carrying it.
Our health workers need appropriate N95 mask and goggles for face protection, appropriate shoes so they don't carry the virus from one place to another.
It is not only doctors and the nurses, every health worker including the ward boys, cleaners, clerks and other support staff are at risk of the coronavirus.
In addition, some other professionals like police, administration, armed forces, bankers, journalists, political and religious leaders are also in the frontline alongside medical professionals in this fight against coronavirus.
Our resources are limited, but our fighters have been doing their best accepting this limitation.
While people are bored staying at home, these warriors are working relentlessly and setting priorities on what to do first. Some of them work more than 20 hours a day to shield the country from this pandemic.
At present, social media is one of the mirrors of society. We maintain distant relations by dint of social media. It helps in self-expression, in emotive support to each other and in community building as well.
During this coronavirus pandemic, however, doctors are often insulted and vilified on social media, which eventually contributes in making them depressed, lonely and anxious, while they face instrument insufficiency at work.
Instead of taking on doctors and nurses needlessly, we should rather focus on the following:
Firstly, during this time of pandemic, decisions should be taken after considering suggestions from doctors, researchers, epidemiologists and health professional.
Secondly, coordination among health professionals, administration, law enforcing agencies, religious leaders, armed forces, virologists, epidemiologists, political leaders, need to be stronger so that the one goal 'fight against coronavirus' can be achieved together.
Thirdly, rumours should be stopped immediately. The government should monitor social media activities appropriately to trace rumours in this period of crisis.
Fourthly, physicians who are directly engaged with COVID-19 patients need isolated accommodation for a certain period of time.
And finally, WHO recommended proper PPE and training for health workers on usage and disposal of PPE must be ensured.
Above all, it is high time to start triage system in hospitals so that the severity of a patient's condition and priority can be determined easily before the situation deteriorates.
If we cannot ensure proper PPE and gears for our health workers, they will turn out as the transmitters of coronavirus instead of saviours.
We are all in this fight together. Everybody can be a part of this, even just by inspiring our frontline fighters.
Besides, dengue is just knocking at the door and our medical professionals will also be there to save us. It is a medicinal war and physical safety for our fighters is a must.
The author is Manager (Facility) of Payra 1320MW Thermal Power Plant of Bangladesh-China Power Company (Pvt.) Limited (BCPCL)