Stigma attached to Covid – 19 patients – study on the raising social concern

Today, COVID-19 pandemic has become a challenge, all around the world. Sri Lanka being no exclusion to this, reports an increasing trend of COVID-19 patients, most of whom are recovered from the disease. However, these recovered people are being discriminated and stigmatized in some parts of the country, which is becoming another huge social problem in regard to COVID-19.

So, new research was carried out to gain insight, and to explore the depth and complexity of experiences faced by the recovered COVID-19 patients. The study further analyses the major driving forces behind this stigma and discrimination towards COVID-19 patients following their recovery. The research group was lead by Dr. Surangi Jayakody from the Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

Samples of 139 COVID-19 patients were taken for this study and semi-structured interviews were conducted via telephone. These participants were interviewed during the first 3 weeks after discharging from four main state hospitals; National Institute of Infections Diseases (NIID), Colombo East Base Hospital (CEBH), Mulleriyawa Base Hospital (BH) Welikanda, and Base Hospital Homagama. Their questions were focused on detiving information based on their different experiences in settings in the society.

The majority of study participants were males, with a mean age of 43 years. The majority belonged to Sinhalese ethnic origin. Also, a considerable number of Tamil and Muslim patients were involved in this study. Up to one-third of participants experienced stigma related to COVID-19 and were discriminated by the community, co-workers and healthcare workers in Sri Lanka. According to this research many participants felt that they were victims of social ostracism. Some recovered individuals who were living in rented houses were even evicted due to COVID-19. Some participants were excluded, isolated and discriminated from the workplace and community due to their infection even after full recovery. In healthcare sector, most workers in lower ranks in hospitals and public health sectors, including public health midwives and public health inspectors were said to be misbehaving with the patients during their illness. It varies from a lack of respect to not providing health services. Communication barriers too were noted as discrimination by healthcare workers.

The study, in results, discloses that the stigma and discrimination experienced by COVID-19 patients in society, workplaces, and healthcare facilities have serious negative consequences in Sri Lanka, at both the individual and family levels. This study presents irresponsible media reporting and sensationalism of news coverage as the main driving forces for this pathetic social behaviour. The study suggests that activities such as breaching of privacy and confidentially of the patients, defaming, and false allegations without consent must be stopped. Also, the research concludes that serious regulations on responsible media reporting must be implemented, which might include an effective risk communication strategy to counteract its effects.

COVID-19 is a disease spreading across the planet, and every human is at the risk of getting infected. Thus, it is our duty to be compassionate and respectful towards the patients and the recovered individuals. They are fighting a hard battle physically, let’s not drag them to another battle front in emotional and mental realms.

Find the research article here:

Article Written by: Sajini Hansika
Cover Designed by: Manuka Pasan

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