An Indian medical worker says doctors are so burnt out they are struggling to fill shifts as COVID-19 patients overwhelm hospitals

  • On May 1, India set a global record of the highest number of COVID-19 cases recorded in one day.
  • So many people are dying, one medical worker refers to patients as “patient” instead of their name.
  • Indian’s strained hospital systems are similar to China and Italy’s COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020. 
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Record-setting COVID-19 cases, alarming death tolls, and overstretched hospitals in India have doctors feeling burnt out, according to Bloomberg News.  

“Now, I’m scared of building relationships with patients. At first I did that, and then I would come back for my next shift and see their empty bed, and that would break my heart. Even the fact that I now refer to them as “the patient.” I would have used a name before,” Gautam Harigovind, a Doctors Without Borders worker in India, said in a blog post for the organization. 

Harigovind also said there’s not enough medical staff to tend to the influx of patients, and the combination of working in humid weather with a protective suit is “unimaginable.” 

Dozens of doctors told Bloomberg that they’re feeling the same way: burnt out, exhausted, and anxious. 

As a result, Harigovind said in his post, they’re struggling to fill staffing slots — turning to graduates instead who are “thrust into something that nobody really expected or can really fathom.”

“Right now, it’s three days and you’re burned out. Even if your shift is only six hours, those are COVID-19 hours. It’s the conditions, and the sheer number of patients,” Harigovind wrote. 

India set a global record of daily cases — but experts say the true rate could be 5 times higher

Since the beginning of the pandemic, India has had over 27 million COVID-19 cases — second only to the US — and over 300,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to Worldometer. 

India’s second wave started in February 2021, and, on May 1, the country set a global record of daily COVID-19 cases — 401,993 in just 24 hours. Experts believe that is an underestimate.

“From all the modeling we’ve done, we believe the true number of deaths is two to five times what is being reported,” Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, told the New York Times. 

Experts say there are multiple reasons driving the soaring case counts: a “double mutant” variant, mass gatherings, and a bumpy vaccine rollout. As a result of the rapid spread, hospitals are running out of beds and people are stealing oxygen from hospitals to help treat their loved ones affected by COVID-19. 

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