The status of medical workers, doctors in particular, continues to be a risky affair during the COVID-19 pandemic. While words of praise are being showered in plenty, safety and preventive measures are hardly being provided. There are increasing complaints about how the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), N95 masks for medical workers in COVID-19 wards have put the lives of these fron tline workers at risk. In Tamil Nadu, the number of medical workers affected by the SARS-CoV-2 has crossed one hundred now.
The varying quarantine duration for doctors and other medical staff on duty in the COVID-19 wards have also increased the risk of virus infection. The lack of healthy food, clean accommodation and transport facilities continue to be big disappointments for the medical fraternity.
‘ENSURE SUPPLY OF PPEs, MASKS’
The Tamil Nadu government, time and again, has claimed the possession of enough stock of PPEs and N95 masks. However, the doctors working in government hospitals, which treat the COVID-19 suspected and positive patients have rejected the claims of the government. The post graduate doctors in ESI hospital, Coimbatore contracted the virus and later disclosed that they were forced to use the same PPE repeatedly.
Another doctor who wanted to remain anonymous said that not all the doctors in government hospitals are supplied with required PPEs. “The doctors and staff in COVID-19 wards are issued with PPEs. The other doctors in the general wards face the risk of infection and are forced to spend their own money for the PPEs. The government should ensure that all doctors and medical staff of government hospitals must be provided enough PPEs and N95 masks,” he added.
‘COVER PHCs AND DENTAL COLLEGES’
The increasing number of cases in Chennai city has exposed all sections of the population to the risk of infection. Personnel from the police department, government milk processing unit, corporation officials and media continue to add to the tally of COVID-19 positive lists.
The recent addition to the affected people is a trainee dental student of the Government Dental College, Chennai. The other trainees and the inmates of the hostel are now quarantined. With Chennai continuing to add to the tally, the administration has failed to be proactive in identifying the vulnerable sector.
Also read: COVID-19 : Spiraling Cases in Chennai Point to Community Spread?
An office bearer of the Tamil Nadu Post-graduate Students’ Association said, “The medical fraternity must be provided with necessary PPEs and masks to stay safe from the virus infection. Though the state has around one lakh doctors, only 18,000 government doctors are involved in treating the COVID-19 patients. The suspected patients can be from any place and hence all doctors and medical staff including those who work in Primary Health Centres (PHCs) must be supplied with preventive equipment.”
IMPROVE QUARANTINE FACILITIES
The dismal quarantine facilities had forced the resident doctors of Rajiv Gandhi Hospital, Chennai to threaten to abstain from work. Following this, the administration had rented hotels and lodges to accommodate them. The doctors have also demanded enough care and attention towards the medical staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“The doctors are sent to quarantine facilities after one week's duty. The duration of quarantine varies from one week to two weeks. This should be regularised and a minimum two weeks quarantine and mandatory tests must be conducted for them,” said the doctor.
Complaints of bad quality food supply to the medical team continue in many parts of the state. The arrangements for food are taken care of by district administrations and only few district administrations have ensured a smooth supply.
‘REVOKE PUNITIVE MEASURES’
The doctors’ association have demanded the state government to revoke the punitive transfers for participating in a strike. A total of 120 doctors, including 30 women, most of whom are multi-specialists have been transferred to far away districts from Chennai. The Federation of Government Doctors’ Association held a strike in October on a charter of demands including increasing the number of doctors on par with the patients in government hospitals.
The strike was withdrawn after the state government’s assurance to discuss the demands. Much to the dismay of the doctors, despit the court ruling in February 2020 on reversing the action taken as per service rules 17B of the state government, the demands are still pending.
“The transferred doctors, most of whom are specialists, are in remote areas. Their service during the pandemic would be of great value. The government should immediately reverse the transfer and enable them to treat the COVID-19 patients,” an office bearer of the association said.
Also read: COVID-19: Our Voices Suppressed, Say Doctors Over PPE Row