Ramesh ShankarWednesday, June 23, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

It is almost one and a half years since the country has been battling with the Covid-19 pandemic which has taken a huge toll of around four lakh precious lives, and is still counting. Ever since the pandemic reared its ugly head early last year, the country has been witnessing an unprecedented surge of patient load, especially during the second wave of this fatal disease which caught the governments as well as the medical fraternity off guard. Consequently, there were reports from across the country about severe shortage of medical infrastructure in hospitals and other medical centres. As the country is battling with the Covid-19 surge and the high patient load, the medical fraternity, including doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, has been under immense work burden. The agonizing crisis caused by the second wave of the pandemic is seen to test the doctors and other healthcare workers to the limits of their professional competence and is already taking a considerable toll on their health. According to the Indian Medical Association, more than 1400 doctors across the country have lost their lives due to coronavirus, 719 of them in the second wave of the pandemic alone. Besides, thousands of other healthcare workers have also sacrificed their lives in the service to the nation. Though the medical fraternity is still putting up a brave front, the fact is that the healthcare workers are completely burnt out now. They are suffering from mental trauma, have little time to grieve the death of their loved ones, and are facing a potential economic crisis. The country added a lot of intensive care beds after the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in the country, but it simply did not have enough critical care workers to deal with the astronomical surge in Covid-19 infections. So hospitals trained practically any available specialist to look after Covid-19 patients. But the healthcare workers are still far and few between, especially during the second wave of the pandemic when state governments are mandating tests and vaccination drives to seven-days-a-week to contain the tide.
It is under this background, experts as well as Pharm D graduates have been crying hoarse to immediately utilize the available pool of Pharm D graduates as healthcare workers for Covid-19 management. Pharm D course is a six-year practice-based and patient-care focused programme. The six-year term of the Pharm D includes five years of academic study and one year of residential internship in specialty or multi-specialty hospitals directed by the Pharmacy Council of India. Introduced in India in 2008 as a professional degree to empower pharmacist to provide pharmaceutical care, the varied subjects taught in the Pharm D course range from human anatomy and physiology, medicinal biochemistry, pharmaceutical microbiology, pharmaceutical analysis, hospital pharmacy, biostatistics & research methodology, biopharmaceutics & pharmacokinetics, clinical research, pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics, clinical pharmacokinetics & pharmacotherapeutic to drug monitoring. Armed with such understanding of the subject of medicine and pharmacy, Pharm D candidates can be an ideal interface between doctors and nurses in ICU for Covid-19 care. Their expertise can be utilized in providing patient care in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, community pharmacies, long-term care schemes, physicians’ offices, and in various public health programmes of the government. As the country is grappling with severe shortage of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, the government should seriously think of deploying qualified Pharm D candidates for Covid management.