My duty is no longer limited to eight hours as it was before the coronavirus pandemic began. Midwives like me have to be available almost 24 hours a day, be it physically or over the phone.
At Tajumuddin Upazila Health Complex in Bhola where I work, four doctors, 13 nurses and four midwives are providing services in rotation. After two weeks of duty, we stay in quarantine for 14 days.
We used to get tested for the coronavirus, but not anymore. Once it took 20 days to get the report after giving the sample, but there was no way that I could remain absent at work during that time.
In this sweltering heat, I have to work with personal protective equipment on for hours, and frequent power cuts at the health complex make the situation worse.
Pregnant mothers are reluctant to come to the hospital, fearing infection. Before the pandemic, 10 to 15 women used to come every day for maternal check-ups, and about 30 normal deliveries took place in a month.
Now, two to three women come for check-ups every day. There were 16 normal deliveries in June.
No one comes to the hospital unless it is an emergency. The practice of giving birth at home with the help of a traditional dai ma (childbirth assistant) is coming back in villages. We have found a number of patients who were overweight and tried normal delivery at home. Their condition became critical due to delayed delivery. We also received patients with convulsions and bleeding after delivery, a major cause of maternal mortality.
If the trend continues for a long time, maternal mortality will increase again. It is now our added responsibility to persuade patients to come to hospital for healthcare.
A separate coronavirus corner has been set up at the 31-bed upazila health complex. However, there are no treatment facilities, which is why suspected patients are actually referred to the district hospital.
There were very few Civid-19 patients in the area months ago, but the number has gone up since the end of the shutdown.
While providing services in this stressing condition, healthcare workers face stigma everywhere. My colleagues who live in rented houses in the city are being harassed by landlords and neighbours. Many homeowners think that healthcare workers would carry the virus home by travelling to and from hospital.
I live in the hospital's dormitory since my family members live in Dhaka. I have not met them in the last six months because of the pandemic.
I have experience of working in emergency situations from the beginning of my midwifery career. Having graduated from Dhaka Nursing College in 2015, I worked in Kutubdia after cyclone Roanu had struck the area. Then I worked in the Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar and joined Tajumuddin Upazila Health Complex in July 2018.
However, I have never seen a situation like this before the pandemic.