Deoria: Doctors and healthcare workers on COVID-19 duty at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur are having to work ten to twelve hour shifts on an empty stomach, with the hospital failing to ensure timely and adequate supply of food. The healthcare professionals complained that the “stinky food” resulted in them suffering from loose motions, stomach ache and acidity. The matter had also been brought to the notice of the medical college principal but it had no effect, the doctors said.
On Sunday, August 2, food packets were distributed to employees in the COVID-19 ward. The doctors said that as soon as they opened the food packet, there was a foul smell. They added that the rice, lentils and vegetables were inedible and that the chapati was completely dry. Nurses and other members of staff on night-duty also refused to eat the food.
“We have repeatedly – orally and in writing – complained to the hospital about the pathetic quality of food. However, no action has been taken so far. We continue to get food of extremely substandard quality, which at times emanates a foul smell… if the hospital authorities refused to take cognizance, we will be forced to go on strike," a nurse deputed to the COVID-19 ward at BRD Medical College told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity. She added that staff members walked out of isolation wards in protest against the lack of amenities in the hospital on Sunday.
“The same poor quality of food was served to COVID-19 patients. On Sunday, when the incident took place, 191 patients were admitted to the COVID-19 ward at the medical college. Except for patients on the ventilator, all others were served the same food,” she added.
Pictures of the food provided to them were shared on social media by the nurses and junior doctors. The body of resident doctors has written to the principal of BRD Medical College, demanding better facilities for health workers on COVID-19 duty. A copy of the letter and photographs of the "food packet" were uploaded and shared widely on social media.
Ganesh Kumar, the Principal of BRD Medical College, said that a complaint has been received about the quality of the food packet and that the matter is being investigated.
“BRD Medical College is providing high quality food to all doctors and employees on COVID-19 duty. Accommodation is also being provided to them in hostels and guest houses. But if such a complaint is received, it will be probed and lapses will not be accepted,” said Kumar.
“It is so inhuman to treat our front-line healthcare workers this way, when governments the world over are doing so much for their well-being," said Dr. Neeraj Mishra, former Resident Doctors’ Welfare Association (RDWA) KGMU President to NewsClick.
The nurses alleged that the hospital administration is trying to silence them after they complained about the poor quality of food and facilities in the COVID-19 isolation ward. A few days ago, at least four nurses suffered food poisoning. “Right now, a deputation is highly suspicious and condemnable. Further, the deputed nurses also have to face the difficulty of travelling long distances during the lockdown. We are seeking a withdrawal of the deputation order,” said a member of a nurses’ association who took part in the protest.
In Basti district, doctors shared pictures of poor quality food being served to them. The staff circulated photographs of the food served on social media. “Food is significant. As patients stay in the hospital and depend on food for proper nutrition, so do doctors staying in hospitals on 14-day COVID-19 duty. Poor quality food means poor health,” said Dr. Amit Singh, general secretary of the Provincial Medical Services Association (PMSA), a body of government doctors.
King George’s Medical University (KGMU) in Lucknow has also come under the scanner for the treatment of its staff members during COVID-19. Doctors posted at the COVID-19 ward of KGMU had also alleged mistreatment by the management. The resident doctors alleged that they had been provided poor quality food with insect larvae.