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Issue 11

Exploring Crevices in Global Healthcare Systems: An Analysis of Health Beyond COVID-19

An article published in the New England Medicine Journal in April 2020 describes the plight of a nurse whose husband died of cardiac arrest when New York hospitals were met with one of the worst public health emergencies in recent times. While the nurse, a medical professional would have ideally rushed her husband to the hospital, she struggled to take a decision for fear of exposing her spouse to the Covid virus. This incident makes one consider the story of the ‘untold toll,’ which the pandemic is forcing on non-covid patients and medical resources across the world. 

When the pandemic hit, the first response of national governments was to impose lockdowns, fund research for the study of the virus and increase hospital intakes for rising coronavirus cases. But most institutions, both governmental and medical, within this rush to curb the coronavirus spread, overlooked other illnesses that had already been affecting people. As a result, all public health funds, research, hospitals and professionals only focused on the potentially deadly virus, while special hospital wards for other diseases were either completely shut down, converted to Covid-19 isolation centres or restricted patients from entering their premises. 

news report published by Al Jazeera in April 2020 covered the impact that Covid-19 had on non-covid cancer patients in the past year, describing how a breast cancer patient was unable to continue treatment and struggled to get her check-ups for fear of getting the virus. Another report from India highlights how cancer patients within the national capital struggled because of postponement of surgery dates owing to pandemic lockdowns. And as one tries to study the scope of this ‘untold toll’ in covid times, one is introduced to articles not just of cancer patients but patients wanting to get a dialysis treatment, women struggling to get abortions and a myriad other such cases.    

 In April 2020, a  report by the Wire analysed how Covid-19 had affected the already struggling public health system in India. As a projective report, the article analysed how patients suffering from cardiac issues, kidney diseases, mental health concerns and other non-covid medical health concerns would be affected by the lockdown. The article further explored how already existing high tuberculosis cases within the country were going to be left untreated in a pandemic world, owing to bad medical health infrastructures within the subcontinent. While there is not enough data available to prove the validity of these reports and the extent to which these predictions were proven correct last year, news reports quoted above give us a glimpse of the situation being close to what this report had predicted. With shutting down of  emergency wards, closure of special wards and the conversion of medical centres into quarantine facilities, it is no surprise that the overall health and well-being of non-covid patients underwent a significant blow. 

While it is no surprise that these ‘temporary pauses’ in healthcare impacted non-covid patients significantly and put the larger health of the public at risk, this situation also brought to the fore the crevices in public health systems the world over. It was not just Indian cancer patients who struggled to get treated, the situation in the UK and the US were similar. The question that this situation raises is that if the healthcare system could not absorb non-covid patients along with new covid patients in the past, will it be able to do it this time? A year after the previous covid scare, the cases have significantly spiked again, with a much stronger, mutated strain of the virus resurfacing in the world. 

The response to this second wave of the virus is yet again lockdown impositions, curfews, shutting down of hospitals, conversion of these spaces into temporary covid wards, thereby imposing a halt on other medical services. while the question remains – can we sustain our healthcare systems in periods of crisis? And can we afford to interrupt other ‘essential’ medical services in times of a pandemic like Coronavirus?

Places like Pune’s Yashwantrao Chavan Memorial Hospital has already become a dedicated covid hospital. The emergency wards in several Uttar Pradesh hospitals have already started shutting down, owing to a spike in Covid-19 cases. Similar reports are expected to be coming from different parts of the country. 

Given the data and policy analysis from last year, one is forced to ask whether the response to the current rise in covid-19 cases will result in the same medical conundrum the country and world witnessed in 2020? Or will our past experiences fill the fissures that were made visible by a global health emergency?

Saman Fatima is a third-year History Major at Ashoka University.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Categories
Issue 7

Pets of the Pandemic

Human beings, as one knows, are social beings; be it with a fellow human or an animal. This inherent quality along with the advancement of technology and media has facilitated the sociality of a person. In the era of the internet, we are up to date and in touch with more friends, family and acquaintances than ever before. However, the year 2020 took such a turn and brutally limited this inherent sociality to being social in a room and connected through a screen. One was not only isolated but in-person social interaction also meant putting oneself and the people around at risk.

With almost completing a year amidst the pandemic, conversations around mental health concerns have seen a significant rise that has a correlational if not causal relationship with the pandemic. It is not uncommon that the pandemic, quarantine and the lockdown harboured a lot of feelings of uncertainty, isolation and loneliness. While a person to person interaction might have been risky, a number of people turned to the companionship of a pet. 

Historically, humans have always been a part of a culture of integrating animals within their lifestyle as both parties have been present in close physical proximity. Traditionally, animals such as horses, cows, dogs, etc. were domesticated to acquire goods such as dairy, meat, security etc; thus, they had a use-value. While these animals were resourceful, over time, this culture of domestication branched out into what a layperson would see as keeping a ‘pet’ in present times. One could see the emergence of keeping pets for companionship, comfort and support. A variety of research sheds light on the human-animal interaction, and one such research explores this bond through the Pet Effect. This effect addresses the impact of the symbiotic relationship of love, affection that the pet and owner share, that significantly contributes to each parties’ physical, emotional and mental well-being. A survey was conducted in 2016, which reported that 74% of the 2000 pet owners, felt that there was a significant improvement in their mental and social well-being once they acquired a pet.

Hence, to seek comfort in these unprecedented times, various individuals who could afford to, adopted a pet. If one would’ve stepped into a park in May, one would have noticed a good deal of what are called the ‘Pets of the Pandemic’. With the lockdown pushing work culture from in-office to a work from home format, not only did a pet provide companionship but also a positive and meaningful presence within the home environment. Owners could now fully distract themselves from the uncertainty and invest in attending to their pet and also indulging in physical exercise by taking them out for walks.

While pets may have been the solution to our loneliness, many have chosen to ignore the  impact of the pandemic on our four-legged companions? Research suggests that for newly born and adopted pets, socialisation is crucial within their first three months. The environment that a pet spends time in plays an essential role in their development. However, due to the pandemic, various pets like dogs and cats have spent a large portion of their initial months indoors. This leads to exposing pets to two pertinent issues: difficulty in adjusting to new environments and socialising and developing separation anxiety. 

Gradual exposure to society and socialization is an important part of taking care of and training pets, especially for a puppy. This training ensures that the puppy grows to be a dog that is comfortable with other people, animals and new environments and does not develop unnecessary fears and phobias. 

Furthermore, stemming from the same environment is the issue of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is often noticed in dogs and is described as the dog displaying distressed behaviour when its’ guardian is about to leave the house. Distressed behaviour could look different for each dog, however, some common indicators are agitation, being upset, uneasy or restless and seeming depressed. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety bark and howl when they are left alone or cause destruction in the house, often causing self-injury and in some cases, make an attempt to escape. 

When we are experiencing distressed, often restoring to a pet for comfort is extremely normal. With owners spending 24×7 time with their pets, the latter have become a coping mechanism for many. The line between this mutually beneficial relationship and co-dependency has blurred during the pandemic. So the most important question to raise is what happens once the guardians move back to their 9-5 in-office lifestyle? How does the pet respond to getting all the constant attention for almost 11 months to transitioning back to the time when they were not? How does the owner resort to separating themselves from their pet, and find other mechanisms to cope with stress?

These are questions that one is yet to answer. 

Vanishree is currently pursuing Psychology and Sociology at Ashoka University. Vani enjoys cooking in her free time. 

Picture Credits: Sunehra Bhatura

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Categories
Issue 6

Garden of Feedin’

Every night, around 12:30 AM, I’ve been getting a regular craving for something freud and cheesy. Oh, did I say freud? I meant fried. Silly. 

Well, I used to be a master of self-control a few months ago. I don’t care if you’re hungry, I’d say to myself. I don’t care if you’re hungry; pandemic or no pandemic, you are not gonna late-night-snack. That’s illegal. To be fair, many things were illegal on a personal level back then. I had my private Constitution and life was a law-abiding citizen. Eventually, of course, I snapped. Every day is the same day, and that day is Self-Love Saturday. No more denying myself pleasure! I had to improvise, adapt and overcome, and that began with the Forbidden Food. I chomped down on some grilled cheese sandwiches nightly, and added on a sugary bowl of cornflakes for good measure. Sometimes I’d go a little crazy and down ketchup by the bottle. Call me a rebel, I don’t care.

I was living the hedonistic dream, even with all the resulting acne.

The things I do in the name of self-care, I swear. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m in this body, because we both seem to have different ideas of The Good. It’s an ethical dilemma. How far can I take my pursuit of umami without crossing the limits of self-care? Is my Midnight Appetite an omen of the degeneracy that’s to come?

I ought to be concerned about the great decline my lifestyle is taking. Surely this is a turn for the worse, and I ought to fix it. And yet, I revel in it. 

A phase of any sort would be well-appreciated in these times. It reminds me that time passes: a thought that has otherwise been a sore point. At age 12, I decided that I was done growing. It was a conscious exercise of agency. However, time was uncooperative, as usual. It paid no heed to me and moved thoughtlessly onward, dragging me along with it. And conversely, it would trudge reluctantly the moment I’d have an uneventful bore of a day. Such lax behavior is what I’ve come to expect from this stupid dimension.

In light of this, it seems awfully odd that 2020, perhaps the most eventful year of my existence, is passing by so slowly. This year, a teenager from Florida masterminded a bitcoin scam and hacked Kanye West, Elon Musk and Bill Gates’ Twitter accounts. Kim Jong Un supposedly died and came back. Unexplained monoliths are sprouting up and disappearing around the world as we speak. If my past habits are anything to go by, I’m supposed to be binge-watching 2020. And yet, here I am, moping on the daily. Am I facing a genuine lack of stimulation even while living in a political-sci-fi-soap opera or am I just a lil brat? 

Perhaps it’s a bit of both. After all, I’m living a lifestyle that’s been meticulously organized into little unhealthy blocks. I spend all my time at home. I social-distance to the point where I can sense people’s auras from a mile away. I schedule designated balcony sunshine hours for myself. I’m really out here taking precautions like a beast. No wonder I’m not experiencing the craziness that is 2020. I’m too busy sanitizing my hands.

Last year I had an A1 cinnamon roll from a little hole-in-the-wall bakery in a town I’d never been to before. I suddenly remembered this spot of heaven during one particular balcony hour and felt a sudden urge to taste a good cinnamon roll. Where I live, this isn’t easily achievable. After a month or so of regularly remembering and putting the thought aside, I finally found a new bakery nearby that sells cinnamon rolls, and placed an order. Walking out of the lobby to the gate of my apartment complex, I was suddenly hit by this incredibly alien feeling. Oh my god. I’m outside. This feels so foreign. There was wind blowing in my hair and wide open space and glaring sunlight all around, for the first time in 6 months. I felt like the whole world could hear me think “Wow, the ground feels different.” I suddenly remembered my cinnamon rolls. Snapped back to reality. Gathered them and hastened back home.

Picture Credit: ISTOCK/YINYANG

Deepti Jayakrishnan is a student of Philosophy and Computer Science at Ashoka University. She likes windy days and judging books by their covers.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).