Take care: pandemic times!

Armna Ali is a GP in Nottinghamshire.

March 2020, the time when COVID-19 restrictions started in England. People were scared of this mysterious new illness which was spreading across the globe at such a raging pace. The fatalities were unnerving. The world stood still; everything was put under the spell of slumber as everyone was asked to take refuge in their own shells.

Work from home, and furlough; the two popular 2020 phrases. Mum called from Pakistan, asking me to take some time off, to stay low, to protect myself as they heard of the worsening COVID-19 situation in England, especially amongst the BAME community. But in my line of work as a year-old GP I couldn’t work from home or apply for furlough. More importantly, as a doctor my work must not stop, especially in a time of crisis. This was my high. When everyone else was sheltering, I was going to the forefront.

As doctors, the first rule we are taught while approaching an emergency is to make sure that you are safe, and only then approach. COVID-19 management and PPE guidelines were changing on daily basis. Telephone consultations took the forefront. I was resistant and reluctant to this change, worried if missing anything… However, to call in a patient, I also had to consider the safety of the staff, the patient being invited, myself and any other visiting patients.

It was this time when I lost some dear ones to COVID-19, and this harsh reality stuck me numb.

It was a time where I had to make best interest decisions. It was time when my patients were more reluctant to come to surgery and some delayed their emergency care in fear of contracting the deadly virus. However, dealing with uncertainty and how to manage patients over the phone, decide which patients must be seen, which home visits were to be undertaken, taught us a lot.

It was this time when I lost some dear ones to COVID-19, and this harsh reality stuck me numb. And despite asking COVID screening questions a patient hid her high fever and cough and ended up passing the virus through me to my young family. Isolation was scary had it not been for the generosity and kindness of some dear friends, who looked after us, dropping in food and groceries. Otherwise I never stopped seeing patients face to face. We called patients in to the surgery sometimes to examine, sometimes because they had hearing or understanding issues, sometimes because they are not able to use video consultation because of lack of resources or knowledge or sometimes to check on their welfare as well. Those were hard times.

A patient hid her high fever and cough and ended up passing the virus through me to my young family.

Then with vaccination the situation improved. Then started the sudden rush to the GP. All the things which they were holding, the grief they were containing in themselves, all the issues from last few months, needed to be offloaded. Everyone felt their problem couldn’t wait, the GP had to organise and arrange this ASAP as this was the generation. You order today you get it the same day; how can anyone wait now. The delays from hospitals were somehow GP’s fault. Every call must expedite the referral. All the rage of losing their job, their loved ones, the businesses, weight gain, their new changing world, lack of recreation… somehow all was taken out on GPs. Somehow forgetting most of the doctors didn’t have any break from COVID-19. Their children still went to school when the rest were shielding theirs.

Let us breathe and allow us a space to carry out their jobs. This is a national service with limited resources which we are providing to the best of our abilities, in the face of threats, abuse and off-putting complaints.

Don’t destroy general practice.


Featured image by Amin Moshrefi at Unsplash     

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Thanks for stepping up! Many in general practice can relate to these feelings where GPs are blamed for all the wrongs in life. God knows when the current ques at hospitals/consultants will ease and pray that many among community health care professionals are still standing.

Thanks for highlighting and speaking up on behalf of the medical fraternity of the UK in specific and the worldwide frontline workers in general. From the heart and a very coherent piece to shed light on this conveninetly ignored issue.

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