Patna: Contrary to the much publicised claim of the NDA government at the Centre and in Bihar that health professionals who have died due to COVID-19 have been compensated, the families of 41 out of 42 such doctors in the state who died in the last one year are yet to receive any compensation.
Dr Sunil Kumar, secretary of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Bihar, expressed his discontent with the government’s apathy and failure to provide compensation to most of the doctors who died due to the pandemic while performing their duty. “Till date the family of only one doctor, who died due to COVID-19 infection last year, has got compensation from the central government as well as from the state government. But others have hardly got anything,” he said.
Dr Sunil added, “We are tired of demanding compensation time and again but there is no concern and response in this regard. If this is the ground reality of doctors who have died fighting COVID-19, one can imagine the plight of common people who were victims of the pandemic.
According to him, the family of Dr Rati Raman Jha, a government doctor got compensation. Dr Jha, who was a civil surgeon in Samastipur district, died on July 27 last year at AIIMS Patna due to COVID-19 related complications.
The IMA leader said that the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for family members of any doctor who succumbs to COVID-19 infection. While the Nitish Kumar-led state government had announced Rs 4 lakh compensation for the same.
The family of Dr Avinash Kumar, who was the first doctor to succumb to COVID-19 on June 28, is reportedly yet to receive compensation. Similarly, Dr Ashwani Nandkuliyar’s family, the second doctor who died due to the infection on July 13, is yet to get compensation.
“The government repeatedly lauded doctors as corona warriors during the fight against COVID-19 last year. They (health professionals) risked themselves while treating infected people and sacrificed their lives. It sounds good that doctors were time and again praised as front warriors in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. But in return, they hardly got anything, not even the compensation announced by both the central and state government,” Dr Sunil further said.
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He said that the IMA fails to understand the criteria and basis used by both the governments to provide compensation to the family of even only one COVID-19’s victim doctors.
He informed that a copy of letter demanding compensation to families of doctors, who had succumbed to COVID-19 was sent to CM Nitish Kumar, Health Minister Mangal Pandey and Principal Secretary of the Health Department several times. Unfortunately, there was no response and no progress made in the matter.
Dr Sunil also that IMA has demanded the Principal Secretary of the Health Department to provide compensation of Rs 20 lakh to doctors in place of Rs 4 lakh. “Not to think of hiking compensation amount for doctors, they have not even disbursed the promised compensation amount”.
As per a list of IMA, nine doctors in Bihar succumbed to COVID-19 in July last year followed by 10 doctors in August. Four doctors died due to the infection in September, seven in October -November,and six doctors between December -January.
Officials of IMA recalled that the death of the large number of doctors in Bihar was the 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-19 patients. Doctors suffered the most due to absence of PPE kits and poor infrastructure in the hospitals.
They also said there was an acute shortage of doctors; those on duty are stressed and exhausted because of long hours of work and no rest.
Dr Ajay Kumar, senior vice president of IMA Bihar, said that it was unfortunate that COVID-19 claimed the lives of 42 doctors in Bihar due to initial negligence on the part of the state government.
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.
Last year doctors and paramedics, already battling COVID-19 in Bihar, have opposed the Election Commission’s decision to deploy them as polling staff to conduct the upcoming Assembly elections in the state. After Bihar Health Services Association (BHSA) and the IMA Bihar, opposed that doctors and paramedics should not be deployed on poll duty as it will hamper testing, tracing and treatment of patients,the government was forced to do so.
According to the official Twitter handle of the Health Department, Bihar, till date COVID-19 has claimed 1,559 lives in the state. The first death from COVID 19 was reported in Bihar on March 22, 2020.
With COVID-19 cases slowly increasing in Bihar since last week, the government has warned people to take all precautions and alerted the health department and its employees.