Amidst the rising number of Covid-19 positive cases among the healthcare staff of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, the apathy from the administration has pushed the AIIMS fraternity into further distress. On Friday, 11 healthcare workers, including two resident doctors, tested positive for coronavirus at the premier institute, taking the total number of hospital staff members infected so far to 206.
On May 28, the representatives of Nurses’ Union in AIIMS met Prof. Atul Kumar to convey and discuss the concerns of the nursing fraternity. Prof. Kumar, however, allegedly told them: “Naukri chod do aur sabji becho (Quit your job and start selling vegetables)” according to the AIIMS Nurses’ Union’s press statement.
“This is clear harassment towards all nurses of AIIMS and is totally unacceptable. We demand unconditional apology from Prof. Atul Kumar at the earliest (sic),” stated the Union.
The issues that have been raised by the Union are: implementation of uniform four-hour duty with PPE in Covid areas, issues related to Vishram Sadan and women’s safety at the Sadan, uniform rotation policy between Covid and Non-Covid areas, establishment of proper feedback system for healthcare workers, refreshing after doffing, establishment of proper donning and doffing area, display of duty roster, simplification of process of accommodation allotment, Parikarma Seva (shuttle service) for night shifts, provision of ambulance facility for Covid screening/Covid positive staff and issues related to trauma ED.
Though these issues have constantly been raised by the union, there has not been any positive response from the administration. The union, thus, has decided to launch a series of protests and agitations from June 1.
If we look at the spread of Covid-19 among the AIIMS fraternity, 206 healthcare workers including two faculty, ten resident doctors, 26 nurses, nine technicians, five mess workers, 49 hospital attendants, 34 sanitation workers and 69 security guards have been infected by the novel coronavirus since February 1.
Though more than 150 healthcare personnel have recovered and have joined back, over 64 healthcare personnel including resident doctors, nurses, laboratory staff, technicians, sanitation staff and security guards have tested positive in the last three days alone.
"We are taking all precautionary and safety measures for our healthcare workers at the institute. The moment any healthcare worker tests positive, we immediately isolate him or her and initiate the process of contact tracing," AIIMS Medical Superintendent Dr DK Sharma told PTI.
"Healthcare workers and ancillary staff testing positive are both from COVID and non-COVID areas of the hospital. Employees from all kinds of departments like engineering, laboratories, offices, canteens, operation theaters and wards among others have contracted the infection," Dr Sharma said.
The AIIMS fraternity has continuously been demanding proper safety kits and N95 masks. “The N95 masks [we get] do not even meet the MOHFW (Ministry of Health) safety standards; forget international standards. Our relentless pursuit has been met with threats of FIR from administration and attempts to jeopardise the career of RDA executives by the administration,” said Dr Srinivas Rajkumar T, General Secretary, Resident Doctors’ Association, AIIMS-New Delhi.
“It’s not the virus that we are worried about. It’s the apathy of the government and the AIIMS administration that worries us. If this continues, we will be short of HCWs to treat patients. Since March, we have been writing and fighting for the safety of hostel premises, [about] poor sanitation, lack of proper quarantine protocol and need for adequate testing,” Dr Srinivas added.
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The AIIMS administration has refuted these reports of lack of proper PPE and N95 masks saying the equipment was in accordance with the standards set by the government. The administration further clarified stating that the institute has been issuing appropriate PPE, including N95 masks, biosafety coveralls, etc., in all patient care and support areas to all healthcare workers irrespective of the mode of engagement. “Sufficient stock of PPE is being maintained to ensure they are made available at all times as required. AIIMS states that specifications for the N95 masks are equivalent to that of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). The N95 masks supplied to AIIMS meet specified standards. The same were evaluated and certifications verified by a committee at AIIMS,” it said.
The administration has been over-rationing the N95 masks for all in the campus. A circular which had come out in the first week of April stated that “It is imperative that in accordance with evidence-based scientific literature these N-95 masks are to be disinfected by individual users [by keeping them in open after use or by other methods] and reused at least four times each.”
As per this circular, it mandated that the issued N-95 masks are to be disinfected by individual users and re-used at least four times each and thus it could be used for a long period.
Not only in AIIMS, healthcare workers across the country have been demanding safety gears for them. But when the healthcare workers raise these issues, they have been threatened with FIRs by the administration, say reports.
(With Inputs from PTI)
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