The frontline healthcare workers are risking it all to care and treat COVID-19 patients as the crisis looms large across the world. As India hopes to flatten the curve of the virus, its healthcare workers are staring at an increased risk of infection because of lack of protective gear and the deafening silence of the central government on the issue.
While several doctors have tested positive for the virus at Mumbai’s Wockhardt Hospital, many others across India are using makeshift protective gear like raincoats and helmets to save themselves from the virus. Despite appeals, doctors are also facing ostracisation from housing societies and are battling stigma.
“One doctor was issued a transfer order, another was taken for questioning by the police in Kolkata; Doctors from Haryana were taken for questioning as well. In another instance, a Safdarjung doctor made a public request for personal protective equipment (PPE) post which he was taken for questioning and later, was apprehended by the administration,” said Dr. Srinivas Rajkumar, general secretary of the Resident Dcotor’s Association at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The association has written an open letter to the prime minister yesterday, urging the government to provide gear to the doctors and crack a whip on the ongoing backlash they are facing. In the letter, the RDA acknowledges the PM’s initiatives; however, it goes on to highlight the issues faced by the healthcare workers related to availability of PPE, testing equipment and quarantine facilities.
Asked to remove social media posts, transferred from hospitals Hospitals are reportedly threatening to fire healthcare workers who publicise their working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic and in some cases, have followed through.
“We have received several inputs from doctors across India who are flagging the issue. However, their safety is on the line so their identities cannot be revealed. Doctors have been asked to remove social media posts and several other doctors have been transferred as they raised their voice over the issue of PPE. WhatsApp group admins are also being asked to share their details,” said RDA president Adarsh Pratap Singh.
He added, “In this situation, the healthcare workers are being targeted for raising their voice against the non availability of PPE or substandard PPE. The government needs to take constructive feedback from us. The Ministry of Health has issued guidelines regarding the standards of protective gear needed. If they are not complying with the ISO standards and substandard products are being used, lives of those on the frontline are at risk.”
Srinivas Rajkumar said, “We want information about how many kits are available, where will the supply come from, what is the status of the surgical gowns, etc. We understand the gravity of the situation amidst this global pandemic but it is the duty of the government to address it. We want them to streamline the process and provide essential services inside the hospitals.”
Previously, the government in Delhi had stated that it is not receiving help from the Centre for the provision of PPE. However, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced today, “The Delhi government has placed an order for 1.2 lakh personal protective equipment (PPE) kits over the past few weeks. Of these, close to 3,000 are delivered each day.”
Also read: COVID19: Patients Face Ostracisation as Names, Addresses are Being Made Public