Delhi COVID crisis: In battleground for over a year, healthcare staff feel burnt out


Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Working for long shifts, facing critical cases, seeing patients die, burnouts, moral injury, anxiety healthcare workers in the city are overwhelmed working in Covid wards for over a year now. The second wave in particular seems to be affecting their mental health as well.

“A sense of helplessness is prevailing among healthcare workers. It is always challenging to call up relatives and convey the death of patients. And this time the feeling of helplessness is more. Many a times, when doctors are not able to save a life, there follows a long awkward silence over how to respond, what to tell others, etc. Despite making efforts when the expected results don’t show up, doctors are affected morally,” said Dr Pooja Shakya of psychiatry department, AIIMS, Delhi.

“Many a times, healthcare workers face a dilemma whether it was their fault that caused a death or a guilt feeling or feeling ashamed that the patient couldn’t be saved. These can lead to further complications,” added Dr Yatan Balhara, additional professor in psychiatry department of AIIMS.

To address such issues, AIIMS psychiatry department from last month end onwards has started counselling sessions, where different topics such as burnout, anxiety, stress and moral injury are discussed. Dr Balhara noted that these are not therapy sessions and rather a supportive service. 

“These sessions last for two hours… We talk on generic queries related to mental health. So far, the response has been good. And in these sessions not just we talk about problems but also discuss about finding solutions,” he added.

Dr Pooja noted that the sessions are a kind of discussion platform where fellow healthcare workers including paramedical staff can talk on anxiety and grief.

“Some are even doubting whether the pandemic will end or not. Many are in residency for PG courses and have spent over a year doing Covid management. They are also worried about their career graph and cannot decline Covid duty as well. One needs to have someone who listens. Some of them develop depression. They need therapy otherwise it may get worse,” said Dr Pooja.

The Delhi government had last year launched psychiatric tele-counselling services for healthcare professionals which didn’t find many takers.

A senior doctor from IHBAS Hospital said that the helpline numbers are still operational but not much used.

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