Dec 20Featured ArticleIssueOpinion

Healthcare Leader: MR Rajgopal

Founder & Chairman, Pallium India

I must admit this; we were afraid. It was partly the fear of the unknown; a disease about which we knew little and  about whose treatment we knew even less. We were afraid for our patients who all have comorbidities. The patients and families were afraid too. Many asked us to stop visiting them at their homes; we were seen
as carriers of the disease.

We were afraid of getting infected in the course of our work and risking our families’
lives.

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Community Engagement
We could no longer think about looking after only ‘our patients’ – people registered with us. We announced a helpline in the newspapers, offering help to those who needed it and asking for volunteers between the age of 20-40 who owned their automobiles.

Would the world order change and society with compassion emerge as a response to the catastrophic 2020? Let us hope it does; but the experience from the plague epidemic of long back tells us that while some may change, human nature will prevail.

The first is the need to make healthcare what it should be, health being defined as physical, social and mental well-being and not just absence of disease or infirmity

There certainly are lessons to be learnt from what we have gone through in 2020. The first is the need to make healthcare what it should be, health being defined as “physical, social and mental well-being and
not just absence of disease or infirmity”. Global healthcare systems have bothered little about treating physical symptoms nor about the enormity of the psychosocial suffering. Will we recognise healthcare for what it should be and make sure that the healthcare system includes enough professionals trained in palliative care and
psychosocial work?

Our COVID experience also highlights the need to put into practice what the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 asked and what the Astana Declaration of 2018 reinforced. Healthcare has to involve the community – professionals and the community working in partnership.

And let us hope that healthcare systems can perceive the mountain of suffering caused by the inequities in society. The vulnerable population suffered enormously not only from COVID-19 but also from the lock down. The inequity is something that happens in the invisible recesses of
our society – invisible to those who are in power. Those with disabilities, those geographically, socially and culturally isolated, those at the extremes of age – all have suffered to an unbelievable extent as in any humanitarian crisis.

“The moral test of a society is how that society treats those who are in the dawn of life…the children; those who  are in the twilight of life…the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life…the sick, the needy, and the handicapped” (Hubert Humphrey).

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