Chennai

COVID-19 keeps doctor couples away from their children and homes for days

Patients waiting to be tested for COVID-19. File photograph used for representational purposes only

Patients waiting to be tested for COVID-19. File photograph used for representational purposes only   | Photo Credit: B. VELANKANNI RAJ

Many government hospitals have posted both the husband and wife on COVID-19 duty, with no exemption for even one member, despite pleas

Except for those daily phone calls, and a few times of meeting outside the gate, Haripriya* and her husband, both government doctors, have not got the chance to hug their child for nearly two months. The couple, who are on COVID-19 duty in different hospitals, rarely get the chance to see each other, and had to put their child under the care of a relative.

COVID-19 might have distanced healthcare professionals from their families. But it is tougher for doctor couples in the government sector.

Doctors said there are at least 20% doctor couples working in the government sector in the State. With no exemption even for one member, despite pleas, many government hospitals have posted both the husband and wife on COVID-19 duty, keeping them away from their children, elderly parents, and homes for several weeks.

“I was put on COVID-19 duty during the end of March, and I have completed three to four rounds of COVID-19 duty so far. My husband is on both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 duty on rotation. When the lockdown began, it was very difficult. We did not know how the disease would progress. Due to our exposure to the virus, we did not want to put our child and elderly parent-in-law at risk. So, we sent them to a nearby relative’s house two months ago,” Dr. Haripriya said.

The days are only getting tougher for them. “The last time we met, we stood outside the gate with a six metre distance between us. Now, every time we call, our child starts to cry,” she added.

Working in a different district, *P. Sivakumar is worried about his young son. “My wife works in the COVID-19 ICU. She cooks meals for two days for our son, and then leaves for duty. Our neighbours help by giving him food. Like us, there are a number of doctor couples working in the government sector. In the majority of cases, both are posted on COVID-19 duty. The work is not stressful but what worries us is the care of our children,” he said.

Being on the frontline is not an easy task, another doctor couple said. “Our neighbours do not open the door. It is natural for them to be afraid. We have no relatives here. With the two of us on COVID-19 duty, our child and parents are left alone at home,” the doctor said. With no other choice, the doctor takes a shower at the hotel and goes home. “I stay in one room, while my child and parents stay in another. We avoid interacting with each other,” she added.

The doctors are seeking exemption for one person in a couple from COVID-19 duty, or at least, for them to be posted at a lesser frequency.

*names have been changed

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 6:38:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/covid-19-keeps-doctor-couples-away-from-their-children-and-homes-for-days/article31650705.ece

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