Sandeep Singh: Patiala’s Junior Residents And Medical Students Are Overworked Fighting COVID Without Financial Or Academic Support
While the government has called them corona warriors, they are feeling neglected and abused
May 22, 2021 | 4 min. Read | Original Reporting
MD students, which are also Junior Residents (JR), have been on the frontline of Punjab’s fight against COVID-19. And, while the government has called them corona warriors, they are feeling neglected and abused as they suffer the burden of the pandemic with limited academic and financial support.
Students like Pehal Goyal have shared with Baaz that they are stressed and finding it difficult to cope with working in overburdened COVID wards alongside their studies and what are subpar living conditions in the school hostel.
“Since the pandemic arrived, only one change came to our lives. We go to duty and come back to our room for rest. All of us are depressed. After coming back from duty, we go to the mess and then sleep in our rooms. No one even says hello to their colleagues as we are too much stressed.”
Anil Ravish is a JR at MS General Surgery, Rajindra Hospital, in Patiala. He tells me that he would have completed his three-year residency in May of this year, but due to the pandemic, he is still in courses and sees an uncertain future, with exams at the back of everyone’s mind.
“Our exams were scheduled to take place in May and my tenure was about to end as a JR. But due to the pandemic, they have postponed the exams and extended our tenure as JRs. How will we be able to focus on our studies in this pandemic? It’s not going to get over soon. If they think of us as capable of working during pandemic then why don’t they promote us to Senior Residents without exams?”
A spokesperson with the resident welfare association of GMC Patiala also highlights the demand from students that exams be postponed so that students can focus on working without lingering stress.
“We have never asked for waiving off exams before. Hospitals used to hold exams and students used to pass the exams. But now we don’t have ample time to prepare for exams. Every month, we spend 12 days in the COVID ward and then we go to work in our own ward. We are depressed. Every day we see so many dead bodies, our doctor friends are testing positive and family members are going through the same fate. All of us are dealing with them too.”
The association has asked that JRs also be promoted to Senior Residents (SR), without exams, so that stipends can increase, and compensation better reflects the work and hours being done.
JRs are also unhappy with the demand for college fees, as one such student shared under the condition of anonymity.
“Due to COVID, Our course work is not being done. As I am a resident of surgery, our OPD and operation theatres are closed, surgeries are not being conducted. We are not working in surgery but COVID instead. However, we are being told to pay fees for surgery. Even last year I paid more than a lakh rupees as fees and 40,000 rupees for a hostel. We are paying fees but not studying or learning anything. Despite risking our lives due to covid, neither our stipend has been raised nor we are being paid any incentive.”
Third-year JRs here in Patiala are paid only 49,000 rupees as a stipend. While JRs in PGI Chandigarh are paid more than 90,000 rupees and at the government medical college sector-32 Chandigarh are being paid 55,000 rupees.
Dr. Ravi thinks that is unacceptable and a failure of government officials.
“Politics has become one-way communication. They make a speech and go, they don’t want to listen to people. We approached OP Soni and till today we have not heard from him. We are in Captain Amarinder Singh’s city and he never came to meet us. Even ministers come and meet the college administration and go back. They don’t meet the JR and have not made themselves aware of ground reality.”
Goyal shares, “we are seeing 400 patients and more than 100 are level three. They pay less salary compared to private hospitals. 80 percent of doctors got infected with COVID too”
“Don’t appreciate us only by saying we are corona warriors. The least the government should be doing is providing social security for doctors. SR Dr. Rajan got infecting while serving in Rajindra and he was on a ventilator for 20 days. Not even a single person from the government had come to ask about his whereabouts. His family had put him in Colombia Asia hospital,” Goyal added.
Dr. Rajan would later die from COVID-related complications.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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