Patna: With the death of 23 doctors so far in the state due to COVID-19 infection, the doctors have been growing increasingly apprehensive.
Bihar has reported the highest number of doctors’ deaths due to the infection for any state in the country with two more doctors succumbing to COVID-19 at AIIMS Patna. On the other hand, the latest data uploaded by the state Health Department claimed that the recovery rate in Bihar was 80.60%, which is more than the national average of 74.69%, while the positivity rate also remained lower than 3%.
Dr Sunil Kumar, secretary of Indian Medical Association (IMA) Bihar, said that the death of nearly two dozen doctors due to COVID-19 is a matter of serious concern and dozens are undergoing treatment after having been infected. More than 250 doctors have been tested positive for COVID-19 in the state.
“This is a result of initial apathy of the government in providing adequate safety kits to the doctors and some laxity on part of doctors who paid little attention to maintaining strict precautions while treating COVID patients. Doctors suffered the most in absence of PPE kits and poor infrastructure in the hospitals,” said Dr Kumar.
He also said there is an acute shortage of doctors; those on duty are stressed and exhausted because of long hours of work and no rest. “Our demand to appoint doctors against the pending sanctioned posts has hardly been fulfilled till date. Of the sanctioned strength of 16,000 doctors in the state, around 6,500 are working. There are 11,500 posts of basic doctors but only 4,500 have been posted. In medical colleges, against the sanctioned posts of 4,000, less than 2,000 are working,” he told NewsClick.
Dr Ajay Kumar, senior vice president of IMA Bihar, said that it is unfortunate that Bihar alone accounts for 10% of the total doctors’ deaths due to COVID in the country. “COVID claimed the lives of 23 doctors in Bihar due to initial negligence on the part of the state government. Doctors were neither provided quality safety gear, nor got adequate facilities to protect them while treating COVID-19 patients or suspected cases.”
He said that it was widely reported that the government was not able to provide adequate safety kits to the doctors and quality of some of the kits provided was poor, “Besides, doctors above 60 years of age were deployed in hospitals despite our demand that the government do not make them engage with COVID patients as they were more vulnerable. Most doctors who died belonged to that group except four, who were below 50 or 60 years of age,” said Dr Ajay Kumar.
On the other hand, he also admitted that some doctors had taken the infection casually and had not paid attention to proper care and precautions.
Ajay, former president of Bihar Health Services Association (BHSA) and its advisor, said that 13 doctors succumbed to the coronavirus in July and 10 died in August.
BHSA’s general secretary Dr Ranjit Kumar said that elderly doctors engaged in private practice neglected precautions and they paid the price with their lives. Majority of the doctors who died of COVID-19 were private practitioners engaged in COVID-19 treatment.
He further claimed to have information about close family members of some doctors, too, dying of COVID, but he said that their deaths have not been reported.
Bihar Health Secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh, however, maintains that the number of COVID-19 cases are declining as testing has increased. He said that on August 15, Bihar had reported 3,536 new cases and on August 23, the state reported 2,247 new cases.
Bihar has been testing more than 1 lakh samples every day since August 13. Most of these tests are being conducted with rapid antigen detection kits. Reports claim that Bihar has been conducting less than 10% of the total COVID-19 tests using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits.
As of now, Bihar has conducted more than 25 lakh tests.
According to the official Twitter handle of the Health Department, Bihar, on August 24, there were 1,227 new cases, taking the total number of cases to 1,23,383 and 610 deaths. Active COVID-19 cases were 24,318 in the state as on August 24.
Also read: India’s COVID Tally Breaches 31-Lakh Mark, up 11 Lakh in About 2 Weeks