“Will perform duty to society until last breath”, says Dr Vikrant Sirohi, Roorkee’s Corona Yoddha
Across India there are many doctors with disabilities who are standing shoulder to shoulder on the frontline to contain Covid-19. One of them is Dr Vikrant Sirohi in Bhagwanpur, Uttarakhand. Dr Sirohi, who has a disability, has been felicitated as a Corona Yoddha (Warrior) by the Roorkie administration. Here’s his story.
As Medical Superintendent, Community Health Centre (CHC), Block Bhagwanpur and Chief Municipal Health Officer, Roorkee Municipal Corporation in Uttarakhand, Dr Vikrant Sirohi has his hands full. Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, he has been working round the clock with other medical teams to ensure that the virus spread is contained.
“I haven’t seen my father for over three months as he is over 70 and has been through a major surgery”, says Dr Sirohi, who is also in charge of Health and Family Welfare for the state of Uttarakhand. “He was quite upset with me at first for staying away but he now realises the scale of the crisis”.
This commitment to duty has won Dr Sirohi the honour of Corona Yoddha (Warrior) from the Roorkee administration. His contribution is noteworthy when you consider that a central government directive exempts employees with disabilities from duty during Covid given that they are extra vulnerable.
Doctor with disability on the frontline
“A Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India order exempts employees with disabilities but he has been at the frontline”, points out Dr Satendra Singh, Founder, Doctors with Disabilities.
Even as a child Dr Sirohi was motivated by the desire to serve the country.
“My childhood dream was to join the Indian Army but that changed after I got polio”. He has post polio paralysis below the right knee and faces difficulty while walking. “I then chose medicine with the blessings of my mother”.
Service to country a childhood dream
Lack of accessible infrastructure was among the key challenges he faced during MBBS. He faced this yer again when he joined CHC, Bhagwanpur. “There was no ramp here and I reached out to the Chief Medical Officer and the centre was made accessible”.
Dr Singh says that Dr Sirohi has played a vital role in expanding CHC Bhagwanpur. “He has enabled the labour room expansion, making it accessible, imparted training of disability competencies to field workers and fulfilled the National Health Mission (NHM) indicators of Rashtriya Bal SwasthyaKaryakram (RBSK) among all health centres in Haridwar and ramped up immunisation from 2012 to 2018″. Achievements that found mention in a monitoring report submitted to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
When the pandemic broke out, Dr Sirohi never considered staying away from duty despite the risks. Risks he continues to face every day. Lack of adequate lab technicians means he has to take samples from suspected cases himself. This involves wearing a PPE kit for a long time. He also has to admit confirmed cases and look after them 24/7 as support staff is thin.
As per a Government of India circular, disabled doctors can take leave during Covid and get full salary. I had that option too but I refused. I will perform my duty as a doctor until the last breath when society needs me. I learned this from my college and my seniors and I want to teach my juniors that when times are difficult you must perform your duty. – Dr Vikrant Sirohi, Corona Yoddha
Donning a PPE is not easy for mobility impaired people, points out Dr Singh, “but he is leading the Corona battle in Haridwar especially when it is witnessing a surge now. Dr Sirohi is leading the CHCs, primary health centres and a team of paramedics and community level health care providers to fight this battle jointly. I often get many queries from disabled people on how they can get an exemption, so it’s refreshing to see a doctor with disability standing up for his social accountability”.
All this comes at a personal cost. “Before Covid, when I would come home from work, my two children would rush to hug me. Now when I return home, I spend over an hour sanitising myself and then meet them. I can see the impact of that one hour in their eyes”. Family support is clearly his biggest strength. “My wife looks after my health and makes sure I eat on time. My kids boost my morale through video calls and motivate me to look after patients properly”.
Fighting for equal opportunity
A cause close to his heart is the denial of equal opportunities to medical professionals with disabilities. This led him to co-found the group Doctors with Disabilities in 2015.
“We found that there were many disabled doctors like us who were being kept out of surgical posts. A recent report regarding the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi shows that these discriminatory attitudes continue to prevail. We are determined to break these stereotypes. When there are people in responsible posts who are scared to step out of home due to Covid, we go out everyday taking risks. We need people to support us instead of saying things like, ‘what can disabled people do’.
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