New Delhi: Amid the rapid surge in the number of positive cases and deaths related to COVID-19, some Delhi government school teachers have been reportedly assigned the task of monitoring dead bodies in cooperation with Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital.
The order, a copy of which has been viewed by NewsClick, has been issued by the Office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, has been approved by the District Magistrate, North-East district, and “In compliance of order vide 588/DGHS/PHW-IV/COVID-19/2021/Dead Body Mgmt/ Socy health/274-288 dated -15.04.2021 following Teachers deployed for monitoring of dead bodies Coordinating with GTB Hospital with immediate effect.”
The six listed teachers are expected to work 24X7 in batches following the shift timings of morning, afternoon and night duty. However, the teachers deployed for the purpose have requested the SDM for replacements. The teachers, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were fearful of contracting the infection at a time when everyone the world over was themselves from COVID-19. They questioned why school teachers with no medical background were being asked to monitor the mortuary of COVID patients.
The mortuary of GTB Hospital, where these teachers have been deployed, is more than a kilometre away from the hospital.
It may be recalled that since the beginning of the pandemic, Delhi government school teachers have been assigned several COVID, ranging from carrying out surveys in the colonies, monitoring COVID-patients who are in home isolation by making calls to them, even supervising work at vaccination centres.
But this time, when the national capital is gripped by the second wave, which has contributed to the highest more than 3 lakh daily COVID cases in the world, the teachers are reluctant to work. What has added to their fear is the lack of medical facilities in case they are exposed to the infection.
Speaking with NewsClick, a teacher who had met the SDM, North East, seeking his replacement owing to ailing parents at home, said: “Teachers don’t want to work at the mortuary. Cases are rising rapidly and we are made to monitor COVID mortuary. We never signed up for this?”, adding that “ only one teacher has worked at the mortuary and his experience was horrible.”
While recalling the duty at GTB Hospital’s mortuary, one teacher said he was horrified and afraid. “I was tasked to supervise the bodies, count the numbers and ensure that dead body entry had been made. During my duty of eight hours, entries for nine dead bodies were made.”
A teacher also complained that no PPE kit or any protective gear was provided. “I was monitoring bodies of COVID patients, yet I was not provided with any protective gear. If they are assigning us such work, it is their duty to provide us protection too. I just wore a mask,” the teacher said.
The teachers assigned for the job said they had no medical background and were not prepared to such work.
“The one teacher who worked at the mortuary has plunged into depression since then. It is not a normal human experience to witness too many dead bodies when we are not even trained for such a task. It will take a toll on our mental health,” said a teacher.
The teachers have requested SDM Vikram Bisht to find their replacement. Another teacher requesting anonymity said, “Our replacement will be made by a batch of another teachers but they are going to keep teachers at work.”
Speaking to Newsclick, SDM Vikram Bisht said, “This is a serious situation. A government servant has to do any work assigned by the government even if they have not done earlier. They can’t refuse.”
Commenting on the shortage of manpower in hospitals, Bisht said; “Obviously, these teachers have been assigned the job because of lack of manpower.”
A teacher who has been showing corona symptoms and is yet to be tested said that he worked at the Delhi airport for 18 days but without protective gear and has now has been assigned to supervise dead bodies. Another teacher said: “I worked at the airport with gear and with medical staff to supervise the incoming passengers and to ensure that they were getting tested. We never said NO to any work assigned by the government in past one year. But we too have families and in such grim scenario, we fear taking the virus home.”
Speaking on whether protective gear was given to the teachers, Bisht said, “We give protective gear, sanitisers and PPE kit when they ask for it. At times, they say they don’t feel comfortable in kit so we don’t give it to them.”