Dr Sushila Kataria

Medanta, The Medicity, Gurgaon, India


Covid19 has ravaged systems and faiths the world over. As a healthcare professional, I have been able to witness the situation on the ground from first-hand. After all, I have been treating 14 Italian patients, of which 13 have been released. Along with them, I have also treated many Indian patients.

On the personal account, this was challenging, but my team has been able to take on the challenge of COVID19 and address the needs of patients and their treatment, and this gave us a sense of satisfaction.

However, let us not assume that this is over. I’m afraid that fight has just begun.


⇒ Hospitals and systems in tier-2 & tier3 are brave but need support.

I am fortunate to work in a hospital-like Medanta, The Medicity, Gurgaon, which is a tertiary/quaternary level hospital and is very well equipped. We do have our sub-plant system and all that, so we understand the importance of isolation. This is not a new construct for us. However, smaller units or secondary level care unit and some lower-level Govt hospitals like district or state level hospitals – they don’t have our advantage. They have never faced something like this. They are new to this. So, running an isolation unit, looking after sick patients or moderately sick patients, would be a challenge for them.

⇒ To motivate the workforce and to keep them safe and to have a good outcome, I suggest every hospital in the country should do a preparedness drill.

For example, we have a full floor dedicated as an isolated area. We have a clean area, one infected area. And then there is a dedicated lift that goes to the infected area. Then the clean area has all the tools for everybody, for a doctor, for a nurse, for GDA, for security, to change, to take bath, after coming out of that area. The smaller things are critical too – like, you need to provide food for the staff from time to time. You also need to motivate them on a daily basis. Most importantly, you need to look after the health of the staff, such as timely check-ups for them because 1/3rd of those working in the isolation could get infected themselves. And that we do not want. And so far, we haven’t had any cases among the staffs, and that is large because we have our systems in place.

⇒ Everybody wants to go on a combat operation, but no one wants to go on a suicide operation.

Institutions fighting a similar battle must remember that, that in a situation like this, ‘uninformed short-cuts’ can be dangerous. For instance, if we do not provide proper PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), it can lead to a graver situation. Shortage of PPE – such as N95 – availability is a real challenge that all hospitals are facing. Healthcare workers are enthusiastic, however, it is our duty to honour that enthusiasm and courage by providing them the assurance of safety. If we assure junior or senior level staffs and everybody that we will genuinely make their protection a priority and provide them the best protection possible, they will reciprocate and come forward and give their best.

⇒ It is time for leaders to step up!

I think we need good leadership, in each organisation, to lead by example. I am the HOD and I am the first one to go in the isolation unit, even before my nurses, my GDAs. The first person who enters the patient’s ward is me. So everybody will follow a good leader.

I have heard that some junior doctors were not coming for the duty thinking that seniors are sitting in the house and that they are subjected to work. So it’s a time for everyone to show their strength and commitment. Suppose there is a risk, can you put your subordinate to that risk? You should explain that this is doable by taking proper precaution. Leaders must lead by being an example.

⇒ This is a national emergency now!

There should not be any differentiation or discrimination between the government and private hospitals. Everybody should come together. I always say that times like this will decide or will reveal our true character by showing the world how strongly we have faced the ‘enemy’. We don’t have to prove our mettle to others – we have to convince ourselves that we are ready and committed for the challenge.

⇒ Message for the healthcare community.

Situations like these come and go, this too shall pass. It’s our turn today to play the soldiers.

⇒ Message to the public.

People are quick to judge their doctors. For every little thing that goes wrong, they blame the doctor. It is not an easy job. Do keep in mind that we doctors do not have the liberty of time and detailed analysis (like a court judge who may take several months on a case) during a crisis. We have to take instant decisions on our instinct and best judgment – and as humans, that can sometimes go the wrong way. So just trust a doctor’s judgment. Be assured and confident that a committed healthcare professional with a strong sense of duty and responsibility will always do his or her best, so trust them completely. It will also help them take better decisions.

⇒ Empathize with doctors.

Do you know that the average life of an Indian doctor is less than the normal average? Or that the suicide rate is higher among doctors? That is because of the stress and risk of the job. And so, when we face additional hazards – like the corona crisis which is an exceptionally high level of emergency – do consider the doctor’s side of the story, and empathize with them. Avoid the ‘easy way out’ by blaming them as money-minded individuals.