How COVID-19 is Affecting Physicians and Their Families
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
In honor of World Health Day, I wanted to not only thank the physician colleagues and also nurses, and other healthcare providers for their valiant efforts in fighting the novel coronavirus. I want to take this opportunity to highlight how it's been impacting physicians as such. COVID19 is affecting physicians from all directions as we are one among the frontline soldiers that are fighting this COVID-19 war. At the same time, our families are also dependent on us. Not only do we worry about our patients and try to keep them safe every day, but we also come home each day and ensure our loved ones are treated the same. In these hard times, making sure the family is safe is crucial. The risk of getting a disease amongst health care providers is extremely high. From the last Ohio report on March 25'2020 by Dr. Amy Acton ODH director, one out of every six people who get infected is a healthcare provider. That's one of the reasons why it's both challenging and onerous to be a healthcare provider right now. During these days, when I think of going to the hospital, so many things linger in my brain. Not only about the total number of COVID-19 cases, I will see in the hospital, but also how will I come back home. What will happen to me in the hospital, whether I will contract the disease, what should I do to take precautions, and how can I help my colleagues and my family from not getting the disease. Even though currently at my hospital, COVID-19 is not as widespread as NewYork or Newjersey. The anxiety of going into the category five hurricane is increasing day by day. Just like a 'silence before the storm.' Death toll at New York and New Jersey looks like a category five hurricane, and its hurting to see so many people are not getting access to the hospital and dying in the waiting rooms. The number of patients contracts the disease is increasing in the community, and everyday COVID-19 unit is added in the hospital, which makes me think that 'it is not about if its when.'
Whoever I talk in the hospital, only one phrase comes out 'COVID-19'. All the health care providers are overwhelmed and anxious about what will happen and how we can cope best with the current situation. Everyone at the workplace is living with nightmares nowadays. My husband, who is a Geriatrician and myself, both are physicians and front line health care providers for COVID-19. And have high chances of contracting the disease. One thing that always haunts me nowadays is, what will happen to my baby if something happens to either of us! As we don't have any immediate family in the United States of America, the thought of both getting sick is giving me nightmares nowadays!!
When I talk to my colleagues and friends, everyone is dealing with it differently. Few people are staying in separate apartments away from their kids so that they won't infect them. Some are even staying in their garage, away from family members for almost 30 days. As Mr. President stated, we are at war, and Dr. Fauci said all the front line health care providers are soldiers, which reflects what we do and sacrifice every day. If that is the case, my concern is why all the front line health care providers are not treated the same. What will happen to these Pandemic Soldiers if something happens to them while fighting this war of COVID-19, who will be supporting them if they get disabled or die? Being born from India and waiting on decades line of green card our position is even worse. Apart from getting wounded in the war, we will also be deported, due to non-working status. It will be helpful if Congress gives all the health care providers assurance by providing benefits similar to the military and giving emergent based Citizenship/green card to temporary visa holders. Unfortunately, it's a broken immigration system, and it's not clear when it will get corrected. So, nowadays, when I talk to my friends who are in the same profession as I am, everyone talks about life insurances, living will, and disability insurances. I am in the process of preparing one for us. I have never imagined in my life that I will be making a living will in mid 30. Unfortunately, these are all the truths which no one can deny. However, at least now, Congress can give us hope and assurance so that we won't be battling two wars! ( COVID-19 war and being treated as rented soldiers)
'I own you, please own us.'
'To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan''- A. Lincoln
And I'm hopeful that we all unite and fight this war together. Being a front line health care providers and having a degree with a master's in public health provider with major in Epidemiology, I am trying in all the directions to tackle this pandemic. Recently wrote two papers on COVID-19 and one published in JOCMR journal this month(https://www.jocmr.org/index.php/JOCMR/issue/current) and another one is in the review. Currently working on a retrospective study on COVID-19 patients at NW Ohio, couple more research articles on COVID-19. Right now in this war of'' humans against the virus'' we all need to unite together to stop it from spreading. I always believe 'Prevention is better than cure' so I started doing community education with a Facebook page created by Mihir Joshi (https://www.facebook.com/outbreakready/). This is my two cents of help to the community so that we can share knowledge, spread the message of unity, strength, peace, and love, as a result, we will be combating this pandemic in a multidirectional and smart way.
Thank you, everyone, for your time in reading my blog!
Mamtha Balla, MD, MPH
Clinical Assistant Professor/Hospitalist
Department of Internal Medicine,