New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) Work without leave, no promotions and even pending salaries, some haven't visited their family for over a year. The virus and the stress have taken a toll, but the healthcare workers are fighting on.
They have been talking to their close ones on video calls, cooking, watching television with family, playing indoor games and disseminating information on social media as ways to bust the stress.
The deadlier second coronavirus wave, which is raging like wildfire, are testing the emotional and physical strength of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, who have been working tirelessly since the pandemic began.
Manjulata, a nursing officer in Delhi, admitted that she had never seen a phase tougher than this in her 30-year career.
The employee at a North Delhi Municipal Corporation-run hospital had an itchy throat, so she went to sleep with her mask on Monday night.
'I'm worried that if I catch coronavirus, my son will get infected too,' the 50-year-old woman said.
The nursing staff at Kasturba Hospital has been working without salary for the last two months. There has been no promotion that could boost their morale in these tough times, according to Manjulata.
'There are many nurses who are the only working members in their family. They keep calling us about their salaries. Still, they come to work to serve the people,' Manjulata, who is also the general secretary of the Delhi Nurses Union, said.
Out of the 150 nurses, around 30 are coronavirus positive and 20 are on leave. The remaining have been working for longer hours, sometimes in two shifts, one after another, she told PTI.
'We cannot describe our mental status. At times, we break down,' she said, adding that talking to their loved ones, cooking and helping the needy gives her strength to keep fighting.
'We keep supporting each other, asking about each other... that makes us strong,' she said.
Mukesh Sharma, a lab technician at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, said has skipped family functions and kept away from his neighbours, too, for the fear of spreading the disease.
Amarinder Singh Malhi, a resident doctor at AIIMS Delhi, availed only two leaves over the last one year.
'I went home (in Amritsar) in January, after 11 months,' he said hurriedly, before picking up an emergency call.
The doctors have been working round the clock. Everyone has to do a mandatory six-hour shift in the COVID ward wearing PPE kits. 'You cannot eat or go to loo during this period,' the 38-year-old doctor said.
Malhi, an assistant professor in the cardiovascular radiology department, utilises his free time by doing video calls to his family, playing indoor games and disseminating information about the virus on social media.
Praveen Gupta, director and head of neurology department of Fortis Hospital, Gurgaon, said he had been working for around 18 hours every day.
'My phone won't stop ringing even at 1 am. Even if I'm home I am always talking to someone,' Gupta said.
Healthcare professionals, like soldiers, are trained to work longer hours without wilting under the pressure, he added.
Gupta said his family had been doing the best to make the quality of life better in such harsh times.
'We play family games, talk, watch television... to keep the pressure away,' he said.
Manish Kumar, the president of Resident Doctors' Association at Safdarjung Hospital, said it had been over a year since he met his parents who live in Patna.
Talking to parents on video calls is the only way to beat the stress, Kumar said.
'It's tough, but there's no option. My brother came out positive a few days ago, but I cannot go,' he said.
'We don't even have time to think (about other things). There's no option but to keep fighting.' PTI GVS HMB