Nations shutting down, hold in businesses and a halt in daily rush. COVID-19 has an unprecedented effect on our daily lives, businesses, trade, sports, and healthcare. Most of the countries have slowed down the production, factories have shut down and the effects of this have been profound. It has also seen a drastic change in supply and demand of various products, on one hand demand for luxury items have gone low and on the other hand demand for healthcare products have increased at a rapid rate. Various industries and sectors are affected by the pandemic; including the pharmaceutical, healthcare, solar power, tourism, information and electronics industries. Pandemic has had a major impact on the global economy. At present, the impact of COVID-19 in daily life is far-reaching and is profound but, one sector which is badly affected by the pandemic is the healthcare sector, not just the industry but also, healthcare workers (HCWs) are dealing with the aftermath of this deadly virus physically and mentally.
Frontline workers and Doctors have been working since the pandemic hit first, it has been a rollercoaster ride from the beginning. Studies says, ‘The psychological burden and overall wellness of HCWs has received heightened awareness, with research continuing to show high rates of burnout, psychological stress, and suicide. HCWs experience emotional exhaustion, which might have led to the medical errors, lower productivity, lack of empathy in treating patients, and higher turnover rates.’
Many HCWs dealt with the ethical dilemmas and moral injury due to the stressful environment during the pandemic. Moral injury is mostly caused by the psychological distress in taking any actions at the workplace and also, the guilt felt when one's decisions or actions are not in accordance with one's own moral values. It led to the high rate of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) including the thoughts like leaving one’s profession or taking the drastic steps like suicide. One of the studies notified that, ‘There was an overall rate of 1.0 per cent suicide attempts and 17 per cent suicidal ideation among physicians.'
World Medical Association passed the statement saying, “physicians in many countries are experiencing great frustration in practicing their profession, whether because of limited resources, government and/or corporate macro-management of healthcare delivery, sensationalist media reports of medical errors and unethical physician conduct, or challenges to their authority and skills by patients and other health care providers.”
Some of the major consequences faced by the HCWs are mentioned below:
-Challenges found in the diagnosis, isolation and treatment of suspected or confirmed cases- Initially it was very difficult to understand the symptoms of the virus, once it identified- it created more chaos because of the similarities in some common flu or antivirals that led to the delays in diagnosis and treatment of the patients.
-High Burden in the functioning of the existing medical system- No healthcare infrastructure was ever ready to deal with something like coronavirus, healthcare industry is reaching to the topmost milestones in the terms of usage and innovation in technology, but COVID-19 pandemic was so sudden and abrupt that it shook the industry at the very moment.
-Patients with other diseases and health problems are getting neglected- Due to the demand in dealing with the COVID patients instantly, other patients with severe diseases get sidelined which causes delays in the treatments.
-Overload on other healthcare professionals and doctors, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment manufacturers- High rise in the demands of treatment and medical supply led to the overburden on manufacturers and other sectors of the industry.
-Misinformation and hoax while pandemic- misinformation played a very drastic role in shaping fear based beliefs around the world, false information about the disease worsened the fear of contagion, myths, and misconceptions about the virus. Amid growing mistrust, health care providers increasingly come to be seen as a risk to communities rather than the solution to this public health emergency.
Frontline healthcare workers who majorly worked during the time of emergency, faced the major aftermath that led to PTSD, stress, suicidal thoughts, life threats and long term triggering thoughts. It’s really important to protect the mental-health and well-being of healthcare workers before the memory of the pandemic response starts to fade. Appropriate evidence-based interventions, and measures must be put in place and actioned for the healthcare workforce - not only during public health crises, but on a day-to-day basis.