The number of COVID-19 cases crossed half a lakh in Tamil Nadu on June 17. Though the government claims high availability of beds in COVID-19 exclusive hospitals, the lack of transparency regarding the availability force the patients to run from pillar to post even in an emergency situation.
The private and government hospitals are also running short of manpower as the number of positive cases keep increasing every day. To bridge the manpower shortage, the government, in an unusual move, had hired a private agency to appoint health workers, including doctors for the COVID exclusive hospitals in Chennai.
The contract was cancelled, however, after the company allegedly demanded one month’s salary as commission for the contract period of three months.
STRENGTHEN PUBLIC HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
The inconsistent approach of the state government in handling the pandemic has created mayhem in Chennai. The five designated COVID hospitals in the city are proving to be insufficient for treating the patients and occupancy in private hospitals is seeing a steep increase.
The cost of treatment and facilities by the private hospitals vary depending on the services provided. Various schemes to cover treatment have been rolled out by many corporate private hospitals, asking for exorbitantly cost. The government has come up with a cap on charges to be levied, but its recommendations have remained only on paper.
Dr G Raveendranath, general secretary of the Doctors’ Association for Social Equality, said, “The possibilities of private players sticking to the cap fixed are highly remote. The socially and economically backward people are set to suffer in the event of the pandemic spreading further.”
The government should seize the opportunity to strengthen the public healthcare system rather than concentrating on roping in private hospitals, he opined.
“We have been demanding that the state government appoint more staff including doctors in all hospitals. Only such a strong network can save people at the time of a pandemic and even otherwise, they can avail affordable and quality healthcare,” Dr Raveendranath added.
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LACK OF STAFF, INFRASTRUCTURE AND REFUSAL TO TREAT
The dearth of beds available in private hospitals is evident as many elderly patients have been turned away. The government as well as private hospitals are reportedly refusing treatment for the elderly people citing lack of beds and ventilators.
The lack of staff in the government hospitals is also taking a toll on the health workers, among whom the number of infections continues to increase.
PRIVATE AGENCY FOR RECRUITMENT
In this situation, the government had roped in the ‘Gentleman HR Recruitment Company’ to fill the vacancies in the state capital. Chennai edition of newspapers published an advertisement calling for qualified people for close to 2,300 vacancies. Recruitment of health workers is usually done by the respective boards and hence, this move shocked many.
A purported telephonic conversation between a job aspirant and the staff of the recruitment agency was made public, in which the aspirant was asked to deposit one month’s salary as commission for getting the appointment. Even though the notification says the contract was for three months, the staff claimed that funds for one year have been sanctioned and the duration of the contract would be extended.
Following the release of the audio clip, the government has severed its contract with the agency. However, round 650 doctors have been recruited by the company so far, who are working in different hospitals.
Dr Raveendranath said, “The recruitment should be done through the medical recruitment board and the minister for health, who is responsible for this fiasco, must resign. The government should take action against the organisation for demanding bribes for appointment as well.”
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