India’s doctors have been known world over for their diligence, thoroughness, knowledge, and experience. India is one of the largest exporters of doctors and healthcare workers. Needless to say, Indian doctors are coveted and respected.
Data from the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2020 says India has five beds and 8.6 doctors per 10,000 citizens. As per government reports, India has 1.7 nurses per 1,000 population and a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1,404 — this is well below the WHO norm of three nurses per 1,000 population and a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1,100.
But even infrastructural challenges and shortage of workforce haven’t been able to stop Indian doctors from saving lives during COVID-19 Second Wave, and indeed throughout the duration of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled anxiety and paranoia among patients, and amidst this our doctors have worked tirelessly to ensure patients get expert supervision and are in touch with their families.
Whether it was a 35 year-old son trying to stay connected with his 60 year-old mother via the doctor’s regular video calls from the hospital or practitioners performing a flash mob to keep patients’ morale high, the medical fraternity has gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect and support us.
Several medical practitioners are travelling door-to-door in rural areas for screening, testing, distributing medicines and driving awareness about the need for vaccination. Moreover, doctors are ensuring 24x7 care at quarantine centers being set-up across rural and urban areas. Doctors and healthcare warriors are literally leading the world’s largest vaccination exercise currently underway in India.
In their quest to save lives, many doctors have made the supreme sacrifice. There cannot be a better moment to remember and honor the sacrifice of Indian doctors than the National Doctors' Day. In India, we celebrate the National Doctors’ Day in honor of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy who was a legendary physician and even served as the second Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal. He was also awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna on February 4, 1961.
While India's doctors have led from the front in the fight against COVID-19, several of our country's civil society organizations have also stepped up to the occasion, working tirelessly to ease the shock of the pandemic.
Organizations like Smile Foundation, through their Health Cannot Wait initiative, are helping strengthen India's healthcare infrastructure, and enabling healthcare reach far and wide. Then there are others like The/Nudge Foundation who, through The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, are incubating, supporting and handholding non-profit startups to innovate for the greater good, so that people from remote and marginalized communities can access healthcare services.
Doctors have shown remarkable fortitude throughout the outbreak of the pandemic. At a time when people were being advised to stay indoors, doctors showed courage to venture out and do their duty. They continue to be beacons of hope for all of us, a symbol of resilience and a never-say-die attitude in the fight against COVID-19.
As our country races to vaccinate more and more Indians, the role of doctors and frontline healthcare warriors is bound to expand. As India is leading history’s largest vaccination drive, it would be unfair not to give doctors and the medical fraternity their due credit. It would be an understatement to say that doctors and frontline healthcare workers have left no stone unturned to ensure people across all corners of our country are able to access vaccination.
On National Doctors’ Day 2021, let us take a pledge to value and honor doctors around us, as they teach us compassion, and the spirit of sacrificing personal comfort for collective good. India’s doctors must be our role models, for they have embodied the essence of our country and civilization.
Be it Nagaland or Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir or Tamil Nadu, across the length and breadth of India, doctors have led from the front, handling an unprecedented load on the country’s healthcare system with alacrity and grace.
The stories of doctors’ valor in the face of the monumental challenge of COVID-19 are worth telling, for these will inspire an entire generation of Indians to work for a greater purpose.
There are so many stories of doctors defying the odds, overcoming grave personal challenges every single day to continue to serve people in the fight against the pandemic. Their determination inspires us to reach for the highest human ideals.
(Dr G P Pandey is Professor, Assam University)