Patna: Doctors, nurses and other members of healthcare staff at government-run hospitals in Bihar are angry and unhappy over the lack of a basic safety kit, N95 masks and alcohol-based sanitisers for examining and treating suspect coronavirus cases. They are at risk of being infected with coronavirus due to the non-availability of necessary safety and protective equipment to keep them safe.
The situation is far from complimentary at government-run hospitals in the sub-division and block areas. It is worse in Primary Health Centres in the village, as there are no basic facilities to keep the doctors safe.
Some doctors from the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Bhagalpur reportedly expressed their dismay. “There are no safety kits, N95 masks or gloves for us, but have been forced to examine suspected coronavirus cases,” said a senior doctor told NewsClick, requesting anonymity.
Another doctor said that it was against the latest guidelines for doctors and health officials issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research. Having to work without protecting ourselves is really dangerous and a risk to our lives. The unavailability of kits has exposed the state health department’s capacity to deal with the coronavirus,” he added.
According to a member of the hospital’s health staff, the superintendent of the hospital, in his letter to top officials of the state government, has written about the scarcity of safety equipment. However, he refused to comment on the matter.
Due to a lack of necessary safety equipment, 83 junior doctors of the Patna-based Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) have already asked to be sent into quarantine. In a letter to the NMCH superintendent, the vice-president of the junior doctors association, Dr Ranvijay Bharti, said there is lack of basic facilities for doctors who are treating suspected coronavirus patients. He said the facilities were not “adequate.”
“If junior doctors come in contact with the suspected cases and develop an infection, their own life will be at risk. Who will be responsible for it? We have requested the hospital to keep us away from the treatment of suspected cases,” he said.
Ironically, the state health department has decided to turn NMCH, the second-largest hospital in the state, into a special hospital for treatment of coronavirus patients in the state. There is a plan to set up 100 beds in the hospital for it.
Reports mention that doctors in Patna Medical College and Hospital are reluctant to examine or treat suspected cases as they are not equipped either.
Bihar’s theatre-of-the-absurd rolls on. In a strange case at Rosera in Samastipur district, a medical team was reportedly wearing raincoats to protect themselves in the absence of safety kits during the examination of migrant workers who had arrived on Tuesday.
“A medical team, during its visit to villages under Shivaji Nagar Block to examine migrant workers was without N95 mask, safety kit and gloves. Doctors and health staff were wearing raincoats instead of a safety kit.They were also covering their face with common masks that they purchased from their own pocket,” said a doctor, who was part of the medical team that visited half a dozen villages.
He said that they were not provided any equipment. “We have been forced to wear raincoats to protect ourselves. We have no other option if we want to work in the field,” he added.
Just last week, about three dozen doctors of Sadar hospital in Motihari, the district headquarters of East Champaran, staged a protest and boycotted work for a few hours against a lack of N95 masks to cover their face while on duty.
Bihar reported its fourth confirmed case of coronavirus on Wednesday. Dr. Pradeep Das, the Director of Patna-based Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI) where COVID-19 tests are being conducted, said that 82 samples were examined on Tuesday in which 1 sample was found to be COVID-19 positive. Till Tuesday there were three COVID-19 positive cases in Bihar, with one person dead.
According to Das, a total of 273 samples had been examined so far and 269 were found negative. Sanjay Kumar, a health official from Bihar said that 909 people are under observation or surveillance in the state.
A day after countrywide lockdown was announced to ensure social distancing to check and control spread of COVID-19, its impact is visible across Bihar. Roads are deserted, vehicles are off them and markets and shops remain shut with hardly any people to be seen. Police personnel are on alert to enforce lockdown and take action against violators. Dozens of vehicles were seized in Patna alone and fined, while three dozen people were arrested for a violation of lockdown in the state.
Police has been deployed all over towns to stop people coming out of their homes unnecessarily. At some places there are barricades where people and vehicles are being checked.
Bihar Police has also been conducting raids after reports of bench-marking of rice, flour, pulses, onion, potato and other food items by traders. Several shops were sealed after owners were found to be involved in selling essential items at more than double and triple prices in Patna, Bhojpur, Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur districts.