The second wave of COVID-19 has struck Tamil Nadu hard, with the number of active cases in the state rising to 1,10,308 on April 28. Doctors and nurses in the state have been deprived of quarantine faciltities after having worked in COVID wards, increasing the risk to their well-being and to other patients, who may contract the infection.
The steep increase in cases has affected the mental well-being of healthcare workers; those infected with the virus and discharged patients suffer from a similar situation.
Meanwhile, a shortage of beds in government medical colleges and hospitals is being reported in several parts of the state. Patients are being forced to lie on the floor to receive treatment in Dindigul district hospital despite the government’s claims of sufficient beds in hospitals.
With the number of fresh cases constantly rising, the state's medical infrastructure requires a massive upgrade to cater to demand in the coming days. The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has permitted hotels and hospitals to house COVID care centres to meet the increasing demand.
NO QUARANTINE FACILITIES FOR MEDICAL WORKERS
From 14,846 active cases on March 30, the number of COVID-19 cases has spiked to 1,10,308 within 30 days. Medical staff at the front lines have been working tirelessly since the pandemic first struck last year, despite being denied basic amenities now.
The doctors have been complaining of a lack of quarantine facilities and healthy food during their work hours.
Dr. G.R. Raveendranath, general secretary of the Doctors Association for Social Equality said: “The doctors, nurses and other medical staff are being forced to work continuously without quarantine after working in the COVID wards. They should be given a break of 14 days after attending duty for seven days.”
The lack of quarantine facilities has left medical workers suffering, both physically and mentally. It also increases the possibility of other patients contracting the infection from healthcare workers returning to work.
“We have received reports of the staff not being provided healthy and hygienic food while on duty. Such activities will only dampen the spirit of the healthcare workers,” Raveendranth said.
‘PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT LACKING’
Another important aspect being less-spoken about is the psychological state of healthcare workers as well patients. The number of deaths in the state are increasing rapidly, with 98 deaths reported on April 28, taking the total number of casualties to 13,826.
“Even psychiatrists are deputed to COVID ward duty since the number of cases are increasing. This has left the healthcare workers and patients without counselling, which is mandatory in these stressful times,” Raveendranath said.
The GCC has started a tele-counselling facility for COVID-19 related queries and emergencies, but the facility is limited only to the jurisdiction of the corporation.
“I tested positive during the second week of April and was admitted to a private medical college for treatment. More than COVID-19 related complications, I was psychologically devastated. But, I was not able to get any help from the hospital to overcome mental stress,” said a patient who has just been discharged.
The patients admitted to ICUs are making distress calls to their family members for want of mental support while the lack of staff in government medical colleges is being pointed out.
SHORTAGE OF BEDS AND STAFF
The medical infrastructure had hardly got any attention during the last one year, leading to the present commotion in the state. Few hospitals have improved their Oxygen storage capacity, but other infrastructure facilities remain poor.
The patients in Dindigul district headquarters hospital were asked to stay on the floor due to shortage of beds.
Balachandra Bose, state joint secretary of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) said, “The government and health department are claiming that there is no lack of beds in government hospitals and medical colleges. But the fact remains that there is acute shortage of beds in many hospitals. The hospital administration promised to set things right today, but nothing has been done so far. Now the police has been deployed to prevent people from taking photographs of patients lying on the floor.”
In certain hospitals and medical colleges, bystanders are being permitted to assist the COVID-19 patients, citing a lack of nursing staff.
The kin of a patient admitted to Kanyakumari Government Medical College and Hospital said, “We have been asked to send someone to take care of our relatives admitted there. We are now risking the life of another family member who will come into close contact with several infected patients. There is an acute shortage of nursing staff there.”