Health workers face stigma and ostracism

Health workers face stigma and ostracism
Health workers face stigma and ostracism

There have been incidences of health workers being ostracized and evicted in Nagaland. (Representative Imasge
Morung Express News
Kohima | April 15


While the angst over the shoddy preparedness for containment of COVID-19 pandemic persists, cases of stigma and discrimination towards the health workers have surfaced and subsequently, reported in the media on earlier occasions.  


There have been incidences of health workers being ostracized and evicted, wherein panicked house owners have asked nurses to vacate their rooms if they are to continue to work, and also nurses being asked by their family members to stop going to work.


Whilst the anxiety of the public (non-medical people) is well understood, the advisory issued by the directorate of Health and Family Welfare dated April 10, 2020 gives the impression of ‘stigmatisation’ of its own health workers by its parent department.


The advisory circulated in the social media was also posted by the directorate of information and public relation on its official Facebook page on April 13.


The first point of the advisory reads “no hospital based personnel are to enter the office premises. Instead of physical visit, they are advised to leverage electronic means of communications including webinar” which many doctors feel is tantamount to ‘discrimination’ disturbing the psyche of the health workers.


The advisory entails that no medical personnel on duty in the COVID district hospitals across the state, should enter the premises of the directorate of health and family. Rather, they were advised to put across grievances, if any through electronic medium.


The Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) in its website states that ‘public health emergencies, such as the outbreak of Coronavirus disease 2019 are stressful times for people and communities. Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma towards people, places and things, affecting the emotional or mental health of stigmatized groups and the communities they live in.’


CDC further advised that stopping stigma is important to making communities and community members resilient. 
Thus, it is satirical that this restriction of entry by the medical department against its own health care workers, who are at the forefront, is in contravention to the appeals and advisory to the citizens against stigmatization of healthcare workers.


On wearing of masks

Besides the advisory to maintain safe environment at the work place, the seventh point reads “everyone need not wear a mask. Only wear a mask if you have symptoms (cough, fever or difficulty in breathing), caring for COVID suspect/confirmed patient, you are a health worker in the health centre and need to go to crowded places.”


Even as there are arguments on whether healthy people should ‘wear or not to wear masks’, it is understood that with the first detected positive case from Nagaland, health care workers are at greater risk of contracting the virus if they do not wear basic protective equipment like facemasks and gloves.


Following the extension of the nationwide lockdown till May 3, fresh guidelines have been issued one of which includes ‘wearing of masks compulsory in public places’ in the wake of COVID-19 situation. Will the medical department still advise its medical personnel not to wear masks?